Vision-Aid and L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad to establish new Center of Excellence with Support from the Palakurthi Foundation

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LEXINGTON MA–Vision-Aid announced the creation of a new center of excellence in partnership with the global leader in eye care, the L.V.Prasad Eye Institute. Support for this major new initiative comes from the Palakurthi Foundation of Massachusetts, USA a philanthropic foundation created by Anuradha and Prashanth Palakurthi of Weston, MA.

The Palakurthi family dedicates this center to the loving memory of Prashanth’s father – the late Dr. Krupasagar Palakurthi and his mother Vasantha Palakurthi. The Center will be named as the “Vasantha-Krupa Palakurthi Vision-Aid Center of Excellence” located at the Hyderabad campus of the L.V.Prasad Eye Institute. Vision-Aid, LVPEI and the Palakurthi Foundation held a virtual launch celebration to celebrate the momentous occasion.

Welcoming this initiative, Prashanth Palakurthi said, “We have known Dr. G. N. Rao for over two decades, even since the inception of the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute. His dream to create one of the world’s best Eye Research Institutes in India was ambitious but the distance it has traveled in journey is remarkable – now easily Asia’s best and world-class. The passion of Ram, Revathy and the entire Vision-Aid team is followed up by unparalleled execution. Our family holds Vision-Aid in highest regard. Affordability, Portability and Ruggedness are key concerns in India and we know that Vision-Aid and L.V. Prasad Eye Institute will deliver an indigenous product that will work for India, and will be my father’s legacy.

Dr. Krupasagar Palakurthi – Exemplifying a life of service

For over 40 years Dr. Krupasagar Palakurthi took his medical degrees to under-served villages in the old Andhra Pradesh. His eye-camps in remote areas in association with non-profit organizations like Mother Theresa’s, brought vision to over 16,000 eyes. He felt that his job in those areas was to provide human dignity more than just improved eyesight and as a consequence made the visually impaired better contributing members to their communities.

Dr.Krupasagar Palakurthi was born on April 19, 1938 in the village of Manukota in the erstwhile province of Hyderabad. He did his MBBS, MS and DO in Ophthalmology from the Osmania University in Hyderabad. He passed away in Westwood, MA on Dec 18, 2016.

Thanks to the generous support of the Palakurthi Foundation, Dr. Krupasagar’s legacy will shine on through the new project jointly being undertaken by Vision-Aid and L.V.Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, Vision-Aid said in a statement.

The new Center of Excellence

Vision-Aid’s mission is to Enable, Educate and Empower the visually impaired to live with independence and dignity.

The new center of excellence at LVPEI will invest in a unique set of programs which focus on four specific areas with one common theme running through all four areas : Innovative programs for the visually impaired. The four focus areas are:

1. Innovations in Low Cost Assistive Technology

Even though there is a plethora of new assistive technology and tools for the visually impaired, the vast majority of them are very expensive and out of the reach of the more financially challenged sections of society. The new center will evaluate emerging technology and tools and select tools which are broadly applicable to settings like India where the majority of visually impaired are unable to afford expensive devices. Two exciting pilot project have been identified in the first phase of the center:

· Smart Vision : An AI-based head-mounted Computer Vision device for Blind Users. Vision-Aid is partnering with Smart Health Global, a Bengaluru Based company to develop and assemble this device. Vision-Aid and SHG aspire to bring the device to market within the next year, at a fraction of the price of similar products available in the international markets.

· Portable digital magnifiers : These compact, portable digital devices can help persons with incurable Low Vision conditions to read books and printed matter easily. Again, the focus is on driving down the cost significantly and bringing the device to market at a fraction of the price of currently available alternatives.

2. Device Fund

A device fund will be established to provide poorer segments of patients technology based devices at a highly subsidized or free/near-free prices, depending on their financial situation.

Affording patients will be charged “at-cost” or nominal charges for the devices to keep the programs sustainable, and recover the cost of the

devices. Any revenues generated will be re-invested in Research and also to provide Training Scholarships for the visually impaired.

3. Training Programs

The new center will offer a range of advanced training programs to both the visually impaired and to vision professionals.

· Training for the Visually Impaired will include training in Computer Programming, Corporate Skills Development and Coaching for Banking and Govt. Sector Exams, all of which are oriented towards creating employment avenues for the visually impaired. Scholarships will be given to deserving students coming from rural areas to cover board and lodging costs for residential programs.

· Training for Vision Professionals will have an all-India scope and help to train professionals from a network of Vison-Aid Centers from many locations, who will work with LVPEI for a 3-month comprehensive training program in Low Vision Services and Vision Rehabilitation.

4. Research

The new center will engage in cutting edge research in the area of vision impairment. As a pilot, Vision-Aid and LVPEI will jointly conduct a 3-year research program in Contrast Sensitivity (CS).

Contrast Sensitivity (CS) is the ability to see the differences in the amount of light reflected from adjacent surfaces. Visual information for communication and perceiving the environment happens mostly at low and intermediate contrasts. Therefore, individuals with poor CS have vision-related difficulties in their daily functional tasks such as mobility, personal grooming, kitchen management, etc. In children, poor contrast sensitivity significantly affects their academics and limits participation in sport and leisure activities. Addressing issues on poor CS is important, as it may lead to poor performance, increased dependency, withdrawal from social inclusion, and lead to poor quality of life. Therefore the present research work aims at studying the contrast sensitivity of children with special needs at three contrast intervals to understand its relationship with corresponding visual acuity levels. The anticipated impact of this research work expects to bring scientific evidence for (1) Developing a standard protocol for including CS in vision assessment (2) Developing guidelines for environmental modifications in the classroom, playground, community hall, home, etc., to enable efficient

visual functions (3) Promoting to take a policy decision in including CS as a critical parameter, in addition to the existing visual acuity and visual fields in defining low-vision and blindness, and (4) Contributing to the literature on the results of differences between normative and children with special needs at different contrast levels. The research outcome anticipates impacting 295 million people who experience moderate to severe vision impairment (IAPB 2021), making a difference in their lives for a better quality of life. The budget provided will be used to cover the cost of research staff, equipment, and travel.

Vision-Aid Founders, Ramakrishna Raju and Revathy Ramakrishna, gratefully thank The Palakurthi Foundation, in particular, Anuradha, Prashanth and Puneetha Palakurthi and the many people in the LVPEI and Vision-Aid teams that worked hard to bring this new initiative to reality.

LVPEI team members included Dr. G.N.Rao, Dr. Beula Christy, Dr.Deepak Kumar Bagga, Dr. Deiva Jayaraman, Ms. Rebecca Sumalini, Ms. Mahalakshmi, Ms. Aishwarya, Mr.Srinath Reddy.

Vision-Aid team members from the USA include Mr. Puran Dang, Mr. Syed Ali Rizvi, Dr. Deeba Hussain, Dr. Aparna Raghuram, Dr. Ramkumar Ramamirtham, Dr. Arun Kumar, Dr. Bharti Nihalani, Dr. Sabera Shah, Dr. Loubaina Buxamusa

Vision-Aid Team members from India include Mr. M.S. Raju, Dr. Col. M. Sitaram, Mr. V.L. Narasimhan, Mr. Vijay Francis and several others.

For more information about the services at the new center, or to learn more about Vision-Aid please visit www.VisionAid.org or email info@visionaid.org. More information about LVPEI can be found at www.LVPEI.org

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