It was 44 years ago that a handful of Baltimore-area families—intent on wiping out the vision-robbing retinal diseases affecting their members—established the Foundation Fighting Blindness. They soon discovered how daunting that task would be, but also offered each other support and solace during a very dark time.
That darkness has abated considerably, thanks to four decades’ worth of FFB-funded research that has made possible: an FDA-approved bionic retina; a gene therapy that has restored sight in clinical trials; and approximately 20 other human studies that may lead to the treatments and cures those founding families hoped for. But there is still a need, among those affected by retinal diseases, to gather together for the purposes of acquiring knowledge and offering support.
Hence VISIONS 2015, the Foundation’s annual national conference, which will take place in its founding city, Baltimore, June 25-27. Roughly 600 Foundation members, associates and researchers have already signed up for the event, but walk-ins are also invited. Even if you can’t attend, the conference will be covered extensively via social media and this blog.
As always, VISIONS will offer dozens of informative sessions, with categories ranging from research to networking to coping. A sampling includes “Cooking with Low or No Vision,” “White Cane Basics,” “Joining the 21st Century Work Force,” “Clinical Trials: Am I Ready?” and “Argus II Retinal Prosthesis Update, Soup to Nuts.” You’ll find the sessions schedule here.
Also, as usual, the conference will be brimming with FFB-funded researchers who are, literally, on the front lines of the retinal-disease battle, working with the latest technology to create and test treatments that show the most promise for restoring sight. Each year, these researchers not only present during sessions; they mix and mingle with conference attendees, answering questions and listening to the stories many directly affected by these diseases have to share.
Among the most notable speakers at VISIONS 2015 will be former New York governor David A. Paterson, whose “Leading in the Dark” keynote will provide insights on thriving, both personally and professionally, as a visually impaired person. And Rebecca Alexander, the author of the memoir Not Fade Away, will speak about living with Usher syndrome, which impairs both sight and hearing.
We encourage anyone in the Baltimore region who hasn’t registered already to join us this coming weekend. If you can’t make it, the next-best option is to visit our VISIONS connect page to catch up on the coverage. Either way, see you there!