Blind Veterans UK has always been at the forefront of adaptive technologies. Since our beginnings in 1915, we have endeavoured to invent and adapt rehabilitation solutions to support veterans living with sight loss. We still hold these principles today.

Our vision is to prevent or reverse the effects of sight loss

Our aims include:

  • Ensure correct, accurate and timely diagnosis
  • Understand the causes of sight loss and take the right action early
  • Predict and prevent avoidable and irreversible sight loss
  • Stop the effects of sight loss

We work across three main research domains:

Social and Welfare Research

When considered together, social and welfare research will help us to identify and understand the drivers of quality of life and social inclusion.

Visual impairment, dementia and virtual reality (VR)

Dementia has been linked to both Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and visual impairment in veterans. We are researching the use of sensory environments and augmented reality to improve quality of life and outcomes for those with dementia.

 

Alan Ayres trying out our VR headset
Dementia in the blind and veteran populations

Blind Veterans State of Mind and Wellbeing

Research indicates that blind veterans have depressive symptoms, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), suicidal thoughts, impairment in social functioning or substance-use disorders. We plan to develop and implement evidence to inform a holistic care plan that would encourage blind veterans to adopt healthy behaviours, increase their resiliency skills and improve their health management.

Biomedical Research

We will develop interventions or technology designed to improve the physiological conditions that are the basic building blocks of positive health and independence after sight-loss.

Circadian studies 

This is a collaboration with the University of Oxford and Circadian Therapeutics exploring circadian rhythms and cognitive neuroscience, which looks at the physiological sleep disturbances and metabolic imbalances which can impact ones mental health.

Our work in this area could also benefit the sighted community and commercial providers in areas such as shift work and jet lag management.

Traumatic Brain Injury

The relationship between Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and sight loss is both complex and under explored. We aim to better understand this relationship and so prevent sight loss where TBI has occurred. ​We are developing an understanding between TBI, dementia, sight loss and associated conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) systems are under development as part of our research.​

Population Research 

In order to better understand the impact of sight loss, we have partnered with leading institutes to study the genetic profile of our beneficiaries, rates of life expectancy and behaviour. We believe that by gaining a better insight in these areas we will be able to provide them with better care and support and also offer further insight into blindness and health to others in the sight loss sector.

Healthcare

Innovations Research

We believe that through the use of innovative technology we can not only improve the lives of our beneficiaries but also help to inform improvements to the lives of people throughout the sight loss community. We are an agile, pioneering organisation that works with external partners to innovate and develop technology which has a wider application.

Our focus areas include development of artificial intelligence for preventive medicine and predictive medicine; use of driverless cars for blind veterans; use of integrated voice systems for smart homes and daily living, and development of integrated devices and disabled assistance on demand.

 

Autonomous PODs

Working with the driverless vehicle company Aurrigo, we launched a trial of driverless pods at our training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton. This trial, which is still ongoing, is the first one ever conducted with veterans or people with a disability, the results will have huge implications for those who can no longer drive.

No longer being able to drive is one of the key factors in creating a sense of isolation for veterans. To many, it's akin to losing your independence, and is one of the most significant things to impact those affected by sight loss.

 

Integrated Devices

Working with RealSAMLtd, our initiative to understand what the effect of accessible technologies has on people with sight loss and  other disabilities, as well as to optimize the prototype devices being used.

 

 

 

Arthur the Driverless Pod outside at the Brighton Centre on a sunny day

Having renewed our research focus in 2016, we are delighted to be working in collaboration with leading institutions to respond to common issues which are not being addressed. This has raised many other questions about future cognitive implications, age-related neural degeneration, psychological/psychiatric maladies, and the effects on veterans and communities.

Evidence suggests that there are clear linkages between these areas, yet the field will benefit from further in-depth research. Careful horizon scanning has revealed that currently there is no centre of reference, especially for veteran’s sight-loss, circadian & cognitive neurobiology.  This is a major gap and a significant opportunity to improve understanding and to make a positive difference to future generations.

Our strong bonds with the United States, South Africa and the blind veterans of other allied forces position us remarkably well to develop a centre of reference at an international level. Our close ties to leading research institutions provide an essential mark of quality, and strengthens our thinking and positioning.  Furthermore, our work in this area will be highly translational to all blind communities and sighted populations.  We have direct and constant contact with the target populations through our membership which provides valuable longitudinal opportunities. 

“The joint research efforts of Blind Veterans UK and Blinded Veterans Association is so important because, by bringing together vision experts and our blind veterans, we can learn lessons from each other, and influence changes to best support blind veterans in each nation.”
Tom Zampieri, President, Blinded Veterans Association in America

Evidenced outcomes

Our research work helps to influence and evidence our policy and campaigning work, and inform pathways to a better quality of life and the care for those living with sight loss supported by the Charity and our partner organisations.

Research and Ethics Expert Advisory Group

The Expert Advisory Group is comprised of the experts and Trustees of Blind Veterans UK. Its purpose is to provide advice, feedback, and monitor performance against the objectives of the Research Strategy. The Group also provide guidance on ethics and other related matters for Blind Veterans UK.

Chairman of the Group is Mr Ian Sherriff, BEM, Academic Partnership Lead for Dementia Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Plymouth 

Ian is the Dementia Lead at Plymouth University, member of the Prime Ministers Dementia Champion group, Chair of the Prime Ministers Rural Dementia Friendly Task and Finish group.

"Blind veterans have given so much to society during times of conflict. The discoveries made in a clinical research facility will ensure that our veterans will continue to support society during times of peace”
Professor Russell Foster CBE, FRSB, FMedSci, FRS University of Oxford

Action Against AMD (AAAMD)

Action Against Age-related Macular Degeneration is a collaboration between Blind Veterans UK and three other sight loss charities (Fight for Sight, Macular Society and Scottish War Blinded) which has been formed to develop an intervention that prevents early stage age related macular degeneration progressing to the point where people lose their sight. Learn more >>