John-Ross (JR) Rizzo, MD is a physician scientist at Rusk Rehabilitation. He leads the Visuomotor Integration Laboratory where his team focuses on eye-hand coordination as it relates to acquired brain injury. Dr. Rizzo has been recognized as a Top 40 under 40 by Crain’s for his industry-leading innovation and dedication to transforming the lives of those with vision deficiencies worldwide.
Dr. Rizzo began Part 1 of a two-part grand rounds presentation by asking, “What if the lights suddenly went out in this room?” He then proceeded to discuss virtual reality demonstrations of the three biggest vision killers in the U.S.: age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. He showed a filter and asked the audience how disturbing it would be if you had it constantly sitting on top of your visual perception? He displayed views to demonstrate profound differences between clear visual perception and altered perception secondary to these conditions. The problem is going from bad to worse. In the U.S., there are 27 million adults ages 18 and older who report vision loss, and by 2050, the number can be expected to approach 52 million. Impaired vision can affect mobility and lead to many problems, such as massive unemployment rates, quality of life losses, and functional dependencies. He then described current mobility solutions, such as primary mobility tools. A worry is that the standard of care can lead to an immobility downward spiral. So as a consequence, obesity, stroke, and diabetes among other problems such as falls all jump upward. He provided a description of many devices being developed to deal with vision loss. The differences between the spatial world of the blind and the sighted were illustrated. Dr. Rizzo described a lengthy itemization of impediments to navigation on city sidewalks that visually impaired individuals must attempt to deal with successfully.