The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) 21st Century Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss Is Moving Forward!

The 21st Century Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss: Some Background

AFB began a “national conversation” on aging and vision loss over a year ago in anticipation of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. As noted in our post on the outcome of the conference, AFB and other stakeholders have been extremely concerned that aging and vision loss issues have not been addressed in any significant way on a national level: “Older persons with vision problems should not be sidelined or forgotten because of their inability to engage – due to transportation issues, lack of technology access, and/or lack of vision rehabilitation services.”

Now that our national conversation has officially launched, you can

  • Read about AFB’s national teleconference
  • Let us know how you will take part by completing our online participant form
  • Learn why the Agenda is so important

AFB Initiates the 21st Century Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss

the AFB logo

On May 5, 2016, AFB hosted a teleconference call to initiate the 21st Century Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss. During the call we discussed designing our Agenda around three major goals and two multidisciplinary themes that built on our national conversation:

  • Building support for increased funding of services
  • Ensuring availability and quality of professional services
  • Collaborating and coordinating across delivery systems to maximize resources for tackling critical needs (e.g., transportation, employment)
  • Multidisciplinary themes: research needs and raising public awareness.

Participation in the Call

Over 100 people participated in the call and raised many topics that are critical to older persons with vision loss: housing, fitness, transportation, employment, service delivery programs and personnel, and funding for low vision and independent living. Although wide-ranging, all of these topics share one overarching issue: the critical importance of “being at the table” to ensure that the needs of people with vision loss are represented and voiced.

The Next Step: We Need Your Response to Our Participant Form

To take the 21st Century Agenda to the next level, we are asking individuals and organizations to respond to a participant form about their interest in participating in one of the goals or becoming involved in some additional ways in the Agenda.

Please complete the online participant form as soon as possible. We will leave the online form open until the end of May 2016.

We hope that individuals and organizations will volunteer to take on the role of “championing” or co-championing a goal to move the Agenda forward. We are also seeking partners with whom to collaborate. We will be establishing a planning committee that will meet monthly to keep the momentum going. We will also host topical meetings about critical issues and best practices and will meet as a group at AFB’s next Leadership Conference in March 2017.

Do You Have Questions or Concerns?

E-mail any of your questions, concerns, or requests for more information to We hope you will join us in helping build a future and “blaze a trail” that will hold hope and promise for older persons experiencing vision loss.

More about the Agenda and Background

In 2015, AFB conducted a “national conversation” with individuals with vision loss and service providers through forums and a national survey. AFB then wrote a letter to President Obama, articulating the major issues related to aging and vision loss.

In that letter, AFB and the 80+ agencies that signed on to the letter emphasized the need for a systemic approach to ensure that older Americans who are blind or visually impaired are able to (a) receive the training in independent living they need to carry out everyday tasks, (b) obtain critical technologies to enhance their health, independence and safety, and (c) access appropriate support services, such as transportation.

Major Concerns Voiced in the “National Conversation”

  • Medicare and Medicaid, the primary health programs serving older Americans, do not cover technology and specialized services (e.g. low vision devices, rehabilitation therapy, etc.) for older Americans who are blind or visually impaired. (Note: Be sure to read about the efforts to pass the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2015.)
  • A common refrain in feedback gathered by AFB, related to the 2015 White House Conference on Aging, is reflected in the following quotation: “Aids for vision, such as glasses, magnifiers, and talking devices, should be covered. This could mean the difference between a person being independent and having to hire someone, or ask a family member, to provide these services.”
  • Service delivery systems addressing the needs of older Americans are fragmented and poorly coordinated.
  • Funding for specialized services for older adults with vision loss is insufficient. Important services do not reach many of those who have the greatest need for assistance – including those in rural areas, those who are isolated from social and family networks, and those who have additional disabilities and medical conditions (especially deafness/hearing loss, memory loss, and diabetes).
  • AFB heard from seniors and service providers that “There seems to be a lack of adequate vision rehabilitation professionals and funding to serve seniors with low vision/vision loss. Priority is often placed on ‘working age adults’ in terms of funding. This becomes a quality of life issue, as well as safety issue, when seniors are struggling with vision loss without the benefits of vision rehab training and services.”
  • The number of qualified professionals providing supports for adults with vision loss is vastly inadequate to meet the service delivery needs of the growing population of older Americans with vision loss.
  • Older Americans with vision loss can continue to live independent and fulfilling lives if given access to appropriate home and community-based supports for carrying out everyday tasks. Seniors should have access to qualified, trusted assistance for reviewing printed materials and managing finances in a way that respects their independence and privacy.
  • Additionally, all Americans – particularly seniors – benefit from affordable reliable public transportation access, not only for medical appointments and grocery shopping, but also for social activities, visiting family, and pursuing their retirement goals and aspirations.
  • AFB routinely heard from people with vision loss that “Public transportation is critical for all persons with vision loss to maintain their independence. Unfortunately however, public transportation is often limited or not available at all. This results in older individuals who are blind or experiencing vision loss being dependent on friends and relatives for transportation, or being housebound.”

Learn More about the Agenda, History, Facts, and Findings