New assistive technology is changing education for blind students

The game, EyeSpy 20/20, screens visual acuity and depth perception. For vision problems, it can catch near and farsightedness, eye misalignment, cataracts, astigmatism, and amblyopia (lazy eye)–often undetectable to untrained personnel and can be missed with traditional eye tests, such as the eye chart. According to the creators of EyeSpy20/20, if caught too late, amblyopia can cause a permanent percentage of lost vision in adulthood.

“Amblyopia is the poster child for pediatric ophthalmology,” Dr. James O’Neil, M.D. said in an interview with Nearby News. “It’s a condition that happens only in children and has to be treated in childhood while the vision system is still undergoing its development to be properly treated.”

In addition to visual acuity, the game incorporates an analysis of binocular function. O’Neil thought that video games might help kids better react to a vision test, and decided to partner with his longtime friend, Richard Tirendi, an electrical and computer engineer.

The creators also understood that computers are readily available in most schools in the U.S., and vision screening software is easily distributed. Computer software applications also allow for the standardization of logic protocols for vision screenings. In addition, the video game format allows for automated testing, which eliminates the need for training and certification of vision-screening.

O’Neil and Tirendi worked for more than 10 years developing this game and founded a nonprofit to develop, validate, and distribute the program. According to the developers, EyeSpy 20/20 came together as a vision evaluation tool as the technology evolved over the course of a decade.

“I jumped in with both feet,” Tirendi said to Nearby News. Tirendi was temporarily blinded as a child. He embraced the chance to develop the video game and spent time learning about children’s vision, related disorders, and the biology of the eye.

The game was tested at the Storm Eye Institute in South Carolina for scientific validation and, after a few years, it received extremely positive reviews, correctly and accurately performing vision screenings of more than 160,000 children.

The founders and creators explain the process of developing VisionQuest 20/20 (a nonprofit set up to help schools, government agencies and other special groups get access to affordable and effective childhood vision screenings using the EyeSpy 20/20 video game):

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Watch an introductory video to EyeSpy 20/20 (VisionQuest 20/20) here.

(Next page: STEM for the visually impaired)

Meris Stansbury

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