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Envision Brings World’s Low Vision Care Experts To Wichita For 13th Annual Multidisciplinary Conference

August 21, 2018
WICHITA, Kan. – Envision welcomed an international group of more than 200 low vision professionals and researchers to its hometown today for the 13th annual Envision Conference at the Hyatt Regency Wichita. The premier four-day event is the only centralized source of accredited low vision continuing education with a multidisciplinary focus in the United States. It is dedicated to advancing and disseminating the most current knowledge about the causes, impact and rehabilitative and research opportunities tied to low vision.  
“The Envision Conference has been presented at many locations throughout the country, and the response to being in Wichita has been remarkable,” said Heather Hogan, senior vice president of Foundation and Mission Services at Envision. “Wichita is increasingly being recognized as a hub for low vision research and rehabilitation. The worldwide community of low vision professionals who have come here will benefit from unprecedented access to research findings, evidence-based information and tools that will strengthen their overall ability to do their jobs and improve patient care.”
Ione Fine, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle and an expert in brain plasticity and sight recovery technology, delivered the keynote address, addressing how individuals who are blind come to understand the language and concepts of the sighted world and, ultimately, learn to navigate through it fluently. She discussed what is known about brain plasticity – caused both by the loss of vision and the resulting need to rely more heavily on the remaining senses – the affect it has on brain development, the slowing down of the process later in life and the extent to which it might eventually be harnessed to interpret the information provided by sight recovery technologies.
A selected speaker at the National Eye Institute’s (NEI’s) 50th Anniversary Symposium focusing on low vision, Dr. Fine is currently a fellow of the Optical Society of America. She is considered a leader in the field of examining the perceptual experience of retinal implant patients. Her projects include a five-year study funded by the NEI to examine how neural responses to auditory stimuli might mediate the enhanced behavioral abilities observed in early blind individuals.
Also during the opening session, Envision presented two peer-nominated awards. The Envision Oculus Award went to Gary Asano, OD, FAAO, a full-time staff optometrist focusing on low vision rehabilitation at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles. The Award in Low Vision Research was given to Walter Wittich, PhD, FAAO, CLVT, an assistant professor at the School of Optometry, Université de Montréal.
The Oculus Award recognizes a career or program centered around professional collaboration, advocacy, research or education that has had a significant national or international impact on people who are blind or visually impaired. Dr. Asano served as a teacher at the Center for the Partially Sighted in Culver City, Calif., and was an assistant professor at Marshall B. Ketchum University’s Southern California College of Optometry. He is also an American Optometric Association’s Vision Rehabilitation Section council member and founder of the California Optometric Association’s Low Vision Rehabilitation Section.  
The Award in Low Vision Research is based on research by a scientist having six or more years post-terminal or professional degree research. Dr. Wittich is affiliated with the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation (CRIR) of Metropolitan Montreal, the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Center of the Integrated Health and Social Services University Network for West-Central Montreal and the Institut Nazareth et Louis-Braille du CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre. A specialist in dual-sensory impairment and acquired deaf-blindness, Dr. Wittich has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles.
“Dr. Asano has devoted his career to advancing our understanding of low vision and low vision rehabilitation, and Dr. Wittich’s work is breaking new ground in how we think about confronting vision loss” said Michael Epp, manager of Professional Education at Envision. “Both have been committed to sustaining and expanding the field and ensuring that future generations of eye care professionals remain focused on the goal of improving everyday life for those with vision issues. We are proud to honor them for their efforts.”
The Envision Conference offers more than 90 hours of clinical education and research sessions pertaining to low vision, enabling professionals from a variety of eye care and related fields to focus on improving the quality of low vision care to patients through collaboration, advocacy, research and education. Sessions qualify for accredited continuing education credits from organizations including the Council on Optometric Practitioner Education (COPE), the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP), the American Optometric Association Commission on Paraoptometric Certification (AOA-CPC) and the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC).  
Hosted this year in Wichita, home of Envision’s headquarters, Envision Conference 2018 affords attendees the opportunity to tour the organization’s child development center, vision rehabilitation clinic, research facility and the recently launched William L. Hudson BVI Workforce Innovation Center, aimed at training people who are blind or visually impaired, placing them into skilled positions and providing direct employment accessibility inclusion expertise to businesses around the United States.
Envision Conference 2018 is made possible in part by: Gold Sponsors Aira and Vanda Pharmaceuticals; Premium Sponsors Good-Lite, VFO, NIDEK and IrisVision; Lunch Sponsors Precision Vision and Grene Vision Group; Cyber Café Sponsor Vitreo-Retinal Consultants; and VIP Speaker’s Reception Sponsor Wichita Medical Research and Education Foundation. The program continues through August 25. Visit www.envisionconference.org or follow @EnvisionConf on Twitter for more details.
About Envision: Envision (www.envisionus.com) promotes advocacy and independence for those who are blind or low vision. Founded in 1933, Envision is one of the largest employers of individuals with vision loss in the nation. Headquartered in Wichita, Kan., Envision’s mission is to improve the quality of life and provide inspiration and opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education and research. For more information, visit www.envisionus.com.


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