Sights for Hope to Raise Awareness of Cutting-Edge Assistive Tech with Special Funding

Sights for Hope will leverage special funding to promote greater awareness of cutting-edge technologies that can enhance personal independence dramatically for people with visual impairments.

Sights for Hope will obtain more than a dozen devices for demonstration purposes at its Lehigh Valley Services Center in Allentown, PA; at its Monroe Services Center near Stroudsburg, PA; and at sites throughout its communities. The purchases will be made with $40,000 in supplemental funding from the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind (PAB). The PAB received $1.5 million in additional funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to help PAB’s member agencies increase the impact of the advanced technologies.

Sights for Hope will purchase the devices this spring and will begin to demonstrate them to clients and patients immediately as soon as possible. The organization will start to make community demonstrations in the fall. Its objective is to make people with visual impairments more familiar with the devices and more likely to acquire them.

Devices that Sights for Hope will purchase for demonstrations include a revolutionary voice- and gesture-activated device that recognizes faces for the user and reads to the user text from any book or surface; a state-of-the-art wearable augmented reality magnifier that enhances what the user can see; and wearable devices that can project streaming video in front of the user’s eyes.

“The chance to increase awareness of these devices is an opportunity to make a purposeful impact on the lives of people in the Lehigh Valley and Monroe County who have visual impairments,” said Jennifer Pandolfo, Associate Director and Director of Services of Sights for Hope. “Inspiring technological advances such as these expand the ways in which barriers to independence and success can be removed and the lives of those we serve can be transformed.”

What is known today as Sights for Hope started in 1928 when two groups of Lions Club members formed branches of the PAB in Lehigh and Northampton counties. Sights for Hope is presently one of 25 independent members of PAB. Annual PAB funding supports Sights for Hope’s guided transport service, caseworker services, life skills education services, children’s vision screenings, and community education programs.

Sights for Hope blends a service tradition inspired by Helen Keller nearly a century ago with contemporary practices to remove the barriers to independence and success caused by visual impairments. Sights for Hope transforms the lives of people with visual impairments in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and Monroe County through life skills education, specialized technologies, individualized support services, free vision screenings for children, and community education programs. Sights for Hope services impact more than 10,000 people in a typical year and are provided at little or no cost. A total of 85% of Sights for Hope clients with visual impairments are from low-income households. Sights for Hope, known formerly as Center for Vision Loss, is a member of the VisionServe Alliance, a network of North American agencies that serve people with visual impairments.

Image: A woman wearing an Eyedaptic EYE3 device, one of the devices to be purchased by Sights for Hope for demonstration purposes