The University of Colorado Department of Ophthalmology was selected by the International Society for Low Vision Research and Rehabilitation (ISLRR) to host the organization’s longstanding low vision conference in partnership with Denver’s Anchor Center for Blind Children from July 24-27, 2023.
Next year’s event, Vision 2023 Denver, will be ISLRR’s 14th international conference – and the first held in the United States in more than two decades. Vision 2023 Denver will connect ophthalmic researchers and clinicians from all over the world with renowned leaders in the field to learn about the latest innovations and technologies to improve the lives of their patients with visual impairments.
“On behalf of CU Department of Ophthalmology faculty, I’m very proud that we’ve been able to invest in bringing ISLRR’s international conference to Colorado,” says Naresh Mandava, MD, department chair at the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center and Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Chair in Retinal Diseases at the CU School of Medicine.
“Vitreoretinal specialists such as myself have focused heavily on developing new devices and pharmaceuticals for patients experiencing low vision and diseases of the eye,” Mandava continues. “We know that many times medical therapies have made great advancements for blinding eye conditions, however, patients are often left with visual disabilities. Low vision rehabilitation is their only chance to enhance their quality of life, and our team is committed to doing that.”
Low vision rehabilitation across the life span
Emphasizing the need for improved visual acuity along with tools and processes needed for rehabilitation, Vision 2023 Denver will cover low vision rehabilitation for people at every stage of their life. Standout courses include a special track on vision and the brain, as well as the most recent developments for infants and toddlers through school, vocational years, and into retirement.
“The professionals who work with the visually impaired in Denver and across Colorado in general are very passionate about what they do. It will be exciting to come together to share ideas on a local scale while also being able to gain different perspectives from across the world and across professions so we can all do a better job of helping others,” says Kara Hanson, OD, FAAO, director of the Low Vision Rehabilitation Service at the Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center and project manager for the Vision 2023 Denver conference.
Attendees, ranging from educators, occupational therapists, orientation and mobility specialists, and clinicians to those who are just entering the profession, will be able to interact with internationally renowned leaders in vision rehabilitation who share their passion in working with visually impaired people. Hanson says the conference is a unique experience for low vision professionals, bridging multidisciplinary specialties and opportunities to collaborate on new therapies under one roof.
“My hope is that those who attend will feel enthusiastic, energized, and better equipped to make a difference in the lives of those they serve. I hope that they will make new friends and colleagues to help support each other in the important work that we all do,” says Hanson, who is also an associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Advocating for accessibility of all attendees
Bringing conference topics about increasing independence and solutions for people with visual impairments to life, the department and Anchor Center for Blind Children are prioritizing accessibility for all attendees.
From the moment attendees step off the plane, RTD rail system, city bus, or car, the conference will offer resources for people in need of visual assistance.
“Several members of our organizing committee are serving as our accessibility advocates to ensure that we provide maximum accessibility throughout the conference—from arrival, to departure, and everything in-between. One of our advocates is a low vision optometrist and has a vision impairment himself and another has more than 25 years of experience as a teacher for students with vision impairments,” says Megan Klassen, executive director of Anchor Center for Blind Children, cohost organization of Vision 2023 Denver and nonprofit providing early education and intervention services for blind or visually impaired children.
“We are aware that the world is a diverse place—the ‘standard’ ways of learning and navigating don’t work for everyone. And we value the input and experience of every attendee, so we aim to be as inclusive as possible,” Klassen continues.
Low vision accessibility and inclusivity both at the conference level and in the state of Colorado reflect the passion of Dave Lewerenz, OD, who was an associate professor of ophthalmology at the CU School of Medicine and passed away in May 2022.
“It was Dr. Lewerenz's idea to submit the bid to host ISLRR's conference,” Hanson recalls. “The CU School of Medicine and Department of Ophthalmology is doing cutting-edge research and providing state-of-the-art eye care to the Rocky Mountain region. Dr. Lewerenz wanted to share that expertise with the rest of the world.”
Additional details and registration information can be found on the conference’s website.