A research seminar bringing world-renowned experts together to discuss sight loss has been held in London…

The “Life Beyond Sight Loss” Seminar was the first in a series looking at various research and innovation ideas in relation to blind veterans.

The seminar was part of an exchange programme called Project Gemini where members of the US organisation the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) visit Britain to join Blind Veterans UK. Now in its seventh year, Project Gemini enables Blind Veterans UK and the BVA to share experiences and knowledge about matters such as blind rehabilitation and readjustment training, vision research and adaptive technology for the blind. This year, two blind veterans from the St. Dunstan’s Association for South African War-Blinded Veterans also joined the project.

The seminar, which was held at the Victory Services Club in London, discussed veterans’ rehabilitation, eye trauma, Traumatic Brain Injuries vision conditions, and vision trauma research as a special Project Gemini initiative. Guest speakers included three internationally known ophthalmologists and Surgeon General of the British Defense Medical Services Vice Admiral Alasdair Walker.

Dr. Renata Gomes, Head of Research and Innovation at Blind Veterans UK, says: “The Research Seminar series will bring together world experts on a variety of issues affecting our beneficiaries, to keep us informed, participate and develop research paving the way to reversing the effects of blindness.

“Blind Veterans UK has always been at the forefront of adaptive technologies, from our humble beginnings in 1915, we have endeavoured to invent and adapt anything that would make our beneficiaries lives better. Our care ranged from innovative ophthalmic provisions to ensuring beneficiaries could have fun and play games.

“Our first seminar focussed on the effects of traumatic brain injuries and their links to sight loss. 70% of those suffering from blast traumatic brain injuries sustained through service in the armed forces complain of vision conditions which may lead to blindness. Blind Veterans UK wants to be at the forefront supporting research to avoid this.”

Major Tom Zampieri (Ret.), of the BVA and a legally blind veteran himself, spoke at the seminar. He says: “This week, and particularly the seminar, is so important because, by bringing together experts and blinded veterans from different countries, we can learn lessons from each other’s healthcare systems and veterans’ services and influence changes that best support blind veterans in each nation.The goal is the achievement of better care for blinded veterans and their families, ensuring that they receive the highest quality of care and support they so richly deserve.”

President of Blind Veterans UK Colin Williamson, says: “Blind Veterans UK is very proud to be welcoming comrades from around the world to the UK. Continued research into the prevention, treatment and after-care of combat-related eye and brain injuries that result in sight loss is vital and, through Project Gemini, we would like to encourage research and innovation into these specific areas.”

BVA traces its earliest beginnings to March 28, 1945 when a group of war-blinded servicemen met at Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital near Avon, Connecticut.

Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in the First World War. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning the Second World War to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more than a century, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision-impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight.