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Research*eu Magazine

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Let there be light: Technologies for the visually impaired

Every October sees the celebration of World Sight Day in the face of a thought-provoking statistic: of all the blind or visually-impaired people out there, 80 % are avoidably so. But how about the other 20 %? EU-funded research projects have given them reason for hope and this issue shines a light on some of the innovative solutions they’ve developed to ensure they’re not left behind in the dark.

R&D for the visually impaired leaves no one behind

We might not realise this until we cross paths with one of them, but our societies are far from disabled friendly. A blatant example of their two-tier evolution can be found in visually-impaired or blind people. Sure, the invention of the Braille alphabet in 1809, or that of screen readers in the early 1980s, were huge steps forwards. But whilst technology keeps evolving, whilst our cities become more crowded, fast-paced and technology-dependent, living without seeing has become increasingly difficult. On 12 October 2017, we will be celebrating World Sight Day in the face of a thought-provoking statistic: of all the blind or visually-impaired people out there, 80 % are avoidably so. For the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, the most effective weapon to change this fact is awareness, hopefully leading to more eye examinations in both developed and developing economies. The question we asked ourselves when working on this issue of the research*eu Results Magazine was, how about the other 20 %? Are they doomed to literally be left in the dark, or can R&D provide innovative solutions for them to catch up with this fast-paced world we live in? Looking through the long list of research projects being funded by the EU, we found that there are indeed reasons for hope. On the one hand, those victims of currently incurable, blinding diseases are now the focus of projects aiming to find new treatments using gene therapy or new drugs. On the other hand, engineers across Europe are designing innovative devices, either boosting the remaining senses to compensate for the loss of sight, or even creating tactile devices that will enable visually-impaired people to benefit from the increasingly graphical contents used in digital communications. Besides these projects, which are all introduced in this magazine, others are presented across nine themes of research: health, society, transport, environment, agriculture and forestry, industry, information and communication technologies, space and fundamental research. The magazine closes with a list of upcoming events hosted by or involving EU-funded research projects. We look forward to receiving your feedback. You can send questions or suggestions to:

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