AFB President & CEO Carl R. Augusto's Call to Action to the White House Conference on Aging:
Set policies to ensure people with age-related vision loss remain independent and healthy
NEW YORK (December 12, 2005)—The White House Conference on Aging (WHCoA) got underway yesterday as delegates from around the country came together to develop aging policies that will impact Americans over the next decade. Long-term financial security and access to affordable health care top the agenda—both of which are issues that will be affected by the growing number of Americans with age-related vision loss.
Over 6.5 million Americans aged 55 and older are blind or have severe vision loss. Approximately one in six people aged 65 and older, and one in three aged 85 and older, has some degree of vision loss. These numbers are expected to more than double by the year 2030.
These statistics often translate into a significant decline in quality of life, but for most, it's not vision loss that causes them to lose their independence. It's the lack of awareness of available resources that can empower them to continue living independent and productive lives.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)—who will be represented at the conference by a delegate at large—encourages the WHCoA to develop policies that will use a combination of public education and economic incentives to ensure all Americans with vision loss can live independently and maintain their quality of life. Specifically, AFB calls on the delegates to:
- Encourage the development and marketing of technology products and services that utilize universal design—the development of products and environments that are usable by all people without the need for adaptation or specialized design—so that older people, especially those experiencing sensory impairments such as vision loss, can access modern-day technology and appliances.
- Guarantee seniors have access to health care coverage that includes coverage of rehabilitation services and independent living skills training for individuals with age-related vision loss.
- Educate professionals in the health care and social service fields about rehabilitation services related to vision loss, so that these professionals can become effective referral sources to older people experiencing vision loss.
- Ensure older Americans have access to employment opportunities by removing barriers to hiring, retention, and promotion, including disability and age discrimination, and limited availability of accessible and usable assistive technology.
- Create incentives for older Americans to rely more on public transportation by expanding the quality and availability of subways, buses, and para-transit services, especially in high-growth residence areas for retirees and rural areas.