Big Data Project Indicates Need for Vision Rehabilitation Services for the Elderly in Western New York

Women holding phone for elderly woman with gray hair.
Photo courtesy of Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

VisionServe Alliance and The Ohio State University College of Optometry provide groundbreaking data on the rate of blindness, and low vision among people over 65 in New York.


May 9, 2022 – VisionServe Alliance (VSA) and The Ohio State University College of Optometry have partnered on a project to analyze standardized New York data and national reports of people who are blind or have low vision.

The Big Data Project provides state-level data on the rate of blindness and low vision among people aged 65 years and older for eight states: Pennsylvania, New York, California, Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Illinois. These briefings also describe the rate of chronic conditions, quality of life, and disability indicators among older people with and without blindness and low vision.

According to the report on New York State, about 7.1% of older New Yorkers (age 65+) report blindness or vision loss. Women, African Americans, Hispanics, and older age groups report higher prevalence of vision loss. Blindness and vision loss are not evenly distributed across the state. The prevalence of vision loss by county ranges from 3% to 15.4%, with Erie County being around 5%. The higher prevalence is typically in rural areas.

“Those areas tend to be under-resourced,” said John E. Crews, D.P.A., the former Lead Scientist with the Disability and Health Team in the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “People are poorer in those areas. They don’t have access to healthcare, eye care, and have virtually no access to anything that looks like vision rehabilitation.”

This data will now give agencies like VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement a boost in talking with their community and policyholders. Policymakers and advocates can use the Big Data Project briefings to develop programs to improve the lives and independence of older people with vision loss. President and CEO of VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement, Tammy Owen, said one of the biggest challenges in providing services to the low vision community is a lack of funding, which ties to a lack of data.

“We’ve been talking about needing data for years,” Owen said. “Those of us who have been serving in this field anecdotally know how large this population is, but we’ve never had this specific data to back up what we are saying.”

With the groundbreaking insight of the findings for New York, VisionServe Alliance is determined and dedicated to completing the project for the rest of the country, starting by recruiting an additional ten states for the next phase.

The Big Data Project briefings are the only studies providing comprehensive descriptions of older people with vision impairment at the state and county levels in one document. The current New York reports have been posted on the VSA website as publicly available downloadable PDFs. They can be found here:

To learn more about VSA and the Big Data Project, contact Lee Nasehi at


About VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement

There is no denying a diagnosis with vision changes or visual loss can present challenges. However, it does not change who you are, what you believe, or, what you want to accomplish.

For over 100 years, VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement has provided rehabilitation and social services to individuals in Western New York who are visually impaired. We pride ourselves on being a comprehensive resource for people experiencing vision loss or who are legally blind to help them adapt to new ways of independence. Our team of vision professionals will customize services to help you manage vision loss at any age.

To learn more, visit

Media Contact:

Samantha Burfiend
Marketing & Communications Manager
VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement

Lee Nasehi
President and CEO

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