NEW YORK, Feb. 1, 2017 /PRNewswire/ --Reading is a simple pleasure. However, millions of people are denied the joy of reading due to vision loss. Now, Lighthouse Guild and Bookshare® have partnered with the American Academy of Ophthalmology to empower students with low vision to reach their full potential. The organizations are working alongside LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco and the members of VisionServe Alliance, who provide services for individuals who are blind or have low vision throughout the United States. The new program will use the Spotlight Gateway app for iPad to expand access to digital reading materials specifically designed for people with low vision.
"Reading should not be a privilege," says Mark G. Ackermann, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Lighthouse Guild. "Books document our history, mark our present and inspire our future. We're pleased to join in establishing this program to break down barriers and open a world of possibilities to students who are visually impaired."
Rebecca Alexander, author, psychotherapist, fitness instructor, and extreme athlete who is almost completely blind and deaf due to a rare genetic disorder called Usher syndrome type III said, "I am an avid reader, and I access the extensive Bookshare® library through the Spotlight Gateway app for iPad. It has changed my life. I am thrilled this new initiative will allow more people with low vision to expand their horizons and explore new worlds through reading." Ms. Alexander, author of the book, "Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found," added, "This is a wonderful program that helps students of all ages with low vision to live as fully and independently as possible."
The American Academy of Ophthalmology's community of member ophthalmologists — physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care — will support this effort by certifying qualified students across the country for the program. Participation in this program is part of the Academy's ongoing effort to refer low vision patients to vision rehabilitation services that lessen the impact of their vision loss, provides them with greater independence and overall quality of life. "Living with vision loss is never easy, but patients can learn how to maximize their potential by using assistive devices and techniques," said Philip R. Rizzuto, MD, a spokes- person for American Academy of Ophthalmology. "Vision rehabilitation is now the standard of care for patients who are visually impaired. This initiative supports ophthalmology's commitment to helping these young people in every possible way."
As part of the program, Lighthouse Guild in New York City and LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco will distribute a limited number of iPads through participating vision agencies, giving more students access to this extensive online library. iPad includes a range of built-in iOS accessibility features for blind and low-vision uses including VoiceOver, Zoom, Speak Screen, Display Accommodations, Dynamic Type, Magnifier, Siri and Dictation. In addition, VisionServe Alliance, which has offices across the country, will provide locations where students can access iPads if they are not in NYC or Northern California.
Bookshare®, a Benetech initiative, is the world's largest online library for people who are blind, visually impaired, have a physical disability, or a learning disability that interferes with reading, such as dyslexia. "We are proud to partner with Lighthouse Guild to make Bookshare's library of over 500,000 books available to individuals unable to read standard print," said Brad Turner, Benetech's Vice President of Global Literacy. "Organizations like Lighthouse Guild help Bookshare® ensure everyone has equal access to content by expanding our reach into the communities we serve."
Training and educational sessions will be available at Lighthouse Guild headquarters in New York, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, and participating vision agencies to help patients and their family's access, navigate and utilize the library. Detailed videos have been created and uploaded to YouTube as well, to help participating vision agencies and individuals understand how to access and navigate the expansive library.
Support for the Spotlight Gateway program has been provided in part by a generous grant from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The Spotlight Gateway App is available for free on the App Store for iPad.
About Lighthouse Guild
Lighthouse Guild, based in New York, is the leading not-for-profit vision and healthcare organization with a long history of addressing the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities or chronic medical conditions. With more than 200 years of experience and service, Lighthouse Guild brings a level of understanding to vision care that is unmatched. By integrating vision and healthcare services and expanding access through its programs and education and awareness, we help people lead productive, dignified and fulfilling lives. For more information, visit www.Lighthouseguild.org.
About American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit www.aao.org.
Bookshare®, a Benetech initiative, is the world's largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. Through its extensive collection of educational and popular titles, specialized book formats and reading tools, Bookshare® offers individuals who cannot read standard print materials the same ease of access that people without disabilities enjoy. The Bookshare® library has over 500,000 titles and serves more than 450,000 members. Access to Bookshare® is free for all U.S. students with a qualifying print disability. Bookshare® is an initiative of Benetech®, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that develops and uses technology to create positive social change. For more information, visit www.bookshare.org.
About LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Founded in 1902, the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired offers programs in six locations in San Francisco and throughout Northern California serving over 3,000 blind and visually impaired individuals annually. LightHouse is the place where blind people come to learn skills to gain confidence and independence. At the LightHouse, people connect with resources, peers and mentors. Every day we prove that with training in braille, cane travel, and adaptive technology, blind people can live the lives they want as competent and confident employees, students, and community members. http://lighthouse-sf.org/
About VisionServe Alliance
VisionServe Alliance, founded in 1987, and now celebrating its 25th year, provides a forum for top executives of private agencies and organizations specializing in blindness and represents the interests of such agencies before many organizations, professional, governmental and non-profit groups. VisionServe Alliance is the only organization whose members directly represent every aspect of services to people who are blind or visually impaired, including dog guide schools, adult rehabilitation agencies, private residential schools, early intervention and pre-school programs, career placement/employment and manufacturing, membership organizations, advocacy organizations, low vision clinics, and services to those with multiple disabilities. For more information about VisionServe Alliance, visit the website www.visionservealliance.org or call 314-961-8235.
About Spotlight Text
Spotlight Text, developed by Focus Reading Technology, Inc, is the first eBook reader specifically for individuals with vision loss. For more information, visit www.spotlighttext.com.
About Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Regeneron is a leading science-based biopharmaceutical company that discovers, invents, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines for the treatment of serious medical conditions. Regeneron commercializes medicines for eye diseases, high LDL cholesterol and a rare inflammatory condition and has product candidates in development in other areas of high unmet medical need, including rheumatoid arthritis, atopic dermatitis, asthma, pain, cancer and infectious diseases. For additional information about the company, please visit www.regeneron.com or follow @Regeneron on Twitter
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SOURCE Lighthouse Guild