Introducing Visus Technology, Inc.
In Latin, the word “visus” (pronounced vy-soos) means “the power of sight.” Visus Technology, Inc., was founded for the purpose of developing integrated solutions to improve the quality of life for people with all levels of visual impairment. With this in mind, we have developed VelaSense® – a novel software system that eliminates the need for separate devices for reading, socializing, identifying unfamiliar objects, or navigating outdoor or indoor environments.
We envision our revolutionary software solution as also being of benefit to people who have cognitive impairments like dyslexia, Alzheimer’s disease and other processing disorders, people with motor control deficits, vestibular and other balance disorders, and even sighted individuals for visual enhancement and guidance technologies.
In the United States alone, over 15,000,000 people have vision loss ranging from mild to moderate to complete blindness. This means that a significant number of American citizens require assistance of one sort or another in order to be able to fully participate in activities that the rest of us simply take for granted.
In 1821, Louis Braille invented the tactile method of reading that bears his name. This was the first type of assistive technology available to the visually impaired. It was considered revolutionary, and is, in fact, still used today. However, it only solved the problem of literacy among the visually impaired – not the many other barriers to full inclusion in society that adversely affected the blind person’s quality of life.
As recently as the latter part of the 20th century, visual impairment was almost guaranteed to mean some level of isolation. White canes, guide dogs, and Braille were the main resources available to people who were not fully sighted. Employment could be difficult to come by, simply because the technology had not advanced to the point where it was possible for visually impaired people to participate fully in many day-to-day activities. Essentially, people who were significantly visually impaired were marginalized.
While people who are visually impaired or blind are now integrated more than ever, there is still a good deal of room for improvement. Among persons age 21-64 who are visually impaired (meaning those who find it difficult to see words and letters even when wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses), only 41.5% are employed. Among the fully blind, only 29.9% are employed.
As our population ages, more people will develop visual impairments due to diseases of the neural tissue – the main causes of age-related blindness are glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Another factor that is prominent in the increasing level of visual impairment in our population is diabetes. 84% of diabetics are 45 or older, and it is estimated that by the age of 65, 27% of the population has one form or another of diabetes. This is a cause of blindness for 5,000,000 Americans. Among this population, many will develop retinopathy, a disorder that frequently causes loss of vision and is a leading cause of blindness among Americans of working age. People with diabetes are also 40% more likely to develop loss of vision due to glaucoma.
We’ve come a long way. Visually impaired people in the United States now have access to:
- Assistive technology programs that speak the text that appears on a computer screen;
- Stand-alone products like personal digital assistants (PDAS) and book players;
- Optical character recognition (OCR) software that allows printed material to be scanned and then spoken;
- Braille embossers that take text files and convert them into hard copy.
Technology has also become considerably less expensive – at one time, visually impaired people needed a device for virtually every task, and by the time you bought a device to help you read the screen on your cell phone, and another to help you identify your currency, you could be out $500 or more for just a couple of adaptive devices.
Today, most devices are able to handle multiple tasks, and technological advances have resulted in many barriers being reduced for visually impaired people. It’s easier than ever for blind people to work alongside the sighted in occupations that provide a good standard of living. Students are able to read, do research, and take tests along with their sighted peers. Of course there is still room for improvement – now the goal is to ensure full participation in education and the workforce, and also to increase the quality of life for the blind and visually impaired through the use of adaptive technology.