Wichita’s Envision Launches New Research Institute For Low Vision And Blindness

Feb 26, 2015

Laura Walker, Ph.D., an Associate Scientist at San Francisco’s Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute who will serve as Executive Director of the ERI.
Credit Deborah Shaar

Wichita’s Envision is expanding its services for visually impaired people with a new $3,000,000 research institute.

KMUW’s Deborah Shaar has the story.

Envision is renovating an entire floor at its downtown Wichita headquarters for its new Envision Research Institute to conduct national studies.

The new space will include up to ten physical labs and a multi-purpose room that can transition into different real-life environments for testing.

The goal of the new institute is to improve treatment and address the rehabilitation needs of blind and visually impaired people.

Credit Courtesy Photo

Envision 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, Envision’s mission is to improve the quality of life and provide inspiration for the blind and visually impaired through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education and research.

Envision Institute Executive Director Laura Walker says they’ll be using science to develop practical solutions that can be applied immediately. The first study involves lighting.

“We know, in general, that lighting can help somebody whose retina is starting to decline, but we don’t know exactly how," she says. "And we don’t know exactly how to prescribe that lighting in a way that is effective for that individual.”

Walker says Envision has two research fellows on staff now and hope to add 30-50 full-time scientists when the institute is up and running.

Envision has raised more than half of the money needed to build out the institute.

Construction is expected to begin in May or June.