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New EU project in the field of vision science, technology and healthcare

The key mission of the Innovative Training Network (ITN) OptiVisT is to enhance the societal participation of individuals with vision impairment through innovative and inclusive care.

Will my vision impairment prevent me from working? How will it affect my job? Will I be able to drive a car or ride a bike? What can my young child see? How can my impaired vision be improved? Are the visual abilities of my Paralympic competitors similar to mine? These are the types of questions that visually impaired people, or their family and supporters, regularly ask professional caretakers. Seemingly simple questions, yet often impossible to answer. The reason for this is that professional caretakers, by default, have to rely on conventional ophthalmic tests (for example, a visual acuity test) that only assesses the extent of the defect. Such tests don’t provide any information on the capacities and the potential the individual has in daily life participation.

Therefore, OptiVisT’s key mission is to enhance the societal participation of individuals with vision impairment through innovative and inclusive care. To achieve this, we need new knowledge and, in particular, new and innovative tests to assess functional visual abilities, and tools to train and augment them. Therefore, we’ve set ourselves three different, but interlinked, research objectives. We want to 1) gain insights into the visual requirements of everyday tasks, when performed by either vision-impaired or unimpaired individuals; 2) design tests and tools to predict, train and augment functional vision; and 3) evaluate whether our new tests and tools afford better-informed decisions and improve daily life functioning.

To achieve this we have brought together handpicked, world-class experts in ophthalmology, neuropsychology, neuroscience, physics, movement sciences, artificial intelligence, and engineering from academia, healthcare and industry. This consortium’s members are complementary, with leaders in the development of new solutions, and experts in their practical evaluation and commercial exploitation.

With this consortium we will train early-stage researchers, to become experts in the foundations of vision sciencetechnology and healthcare themselves. Therefore, the OptiVisT experience provides training to 15 early-stage researchers to make them the pivotal next generation of specialists in Translational Vision Science, ready to take on leading positions to the benefit of healthcare, industry and science. Our consortium offers all the essential components to nurture this new generation of cutting-edge scientists: they will learn how to quantify the visual demands of activities of daily living and to use their new insights to design objective, effective and easy-to-use tests and tools of functional vision. Furthermore, the OptiVisT trainees will also be enrolled in a doctoral program in order to obtain a doctoral degree.

With the OptiVisT consortium and its trainees, we hope to make a real difference to the lives of millions of individuals with vision impairment, in order to improve their opportunities to work, play sports, and participate in wider society, to their fullest potential.

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