Blindness and Low Vision Studies Research

Dr. Robert Wall Emerson, a professor in the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies, has recently run studies investigating the specifics of how hybrid and quieter vehicles affect the mobility of pedestrians with visual impairments. Along with Dr. Dae Kim in the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies and Dr. Koorosh Naghshineh in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, work has been conducted in partnership with General Motors and Nissan Corporation. These efforts were also supported by a Bioengineering Research Partnership grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Eye Institute (PI is Richard Long). Dr. Wall Emerson is also working on a subcontract to the Mathematics eText Research Center at the University of Oregon. The study is investigating the efficacy of different modes of description for helping blind students access images in mathematics textbooks. Dr. Wall Emerson and Dr. Dae Kim continue a multi-year data collection looking at the biomechanics of how people use the long cane and how human and cane factors impact outcomes such as drop off detection and body ergonomics.

Dr. David Guth, professor in the Department of Blindness and Low Vision, and Dr. Wall Emerson continue to work on the measurement issues associated with assessing heading and veering studies with people who are blind. They are conducting studies looking at factors that influence veering and alignment and are also investigating the complexities of trying to measure heading and alignment.

Dr. Dae Kim, Associate Professor in the Department of Blindness and Low Vision, was awarded a $124,226 Effect of Vehicle Sound Levels on Blind Pedestrians' O&M Performance research grant from Nissan Technical Center North America in the spring of 2012. He was also awarded a $78,680 Vehicle Sound Study (Phase II) research grant from General Motors in the summer of 2012. He took a lead in data collection for the Nissan vehicle sound study as well as the long cane biomechanics study conducted in the summer of 2011 and spring of 2012. He also took part as a key experimenter in General Motors vehicle sound study data collection in the fall of 2011. During 2011-12, he published an article on long cane biomechanics and another article on quiet cars in peer-reviewed journals. In addition, four articles he wrote as a first author—two on quiet cars and two on program assessment—are in press in peer-reviewed journals. He also published a peer-reviewed conference proceeding and a federally funded research report on blind pedestrian's access to complex intersections and presented the findings of his quiet car and cane biomechanics studies at three international conferences.

Drs. Richard Long and David Guth, professors in the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies, co-direct a Bioengineering Research Partnership that is funded by the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health. The partnership was initially funded in 2000 and is scheduled to receive support until 2012. The interdisciplinary partnership involves transportation engineers, psychologists, rehabilitation professionals, and computer scientists from Boston College, Johns Hopkins University, Vanderbilt University, and North Carolina State University. Its goal is to determine the problems that people with blindness have in complex travel situations, with a focus on access to complex intersections and challenging street crossings. As problems are identified, the partnership works to develop and evaluate solutions to the problems that are identified, including the development of new technologies to assist individuals in crossing streets safely and efficiently at locations where crossings are challenging. Current research focus areas include: challenges in crossing streets at roundabout intersections and other crosswalks without stop signs or signals; the design and operation of accessible pedestrian signals at complex signalized intersections; and challenges in hearing quieter vehicles when crossing streets, and solutions to this problem. 

Dr. Paul Ponchillia, professor emeritus in the Department Blindness and Low Vision Studies, has partnered with Dr. Steve LaGrow of Massey University in New Zealand to conduct as survey of usage of GPS-based navigation devices by individuals who are blind. The survey will reveal the extent to which individuals are using their GPS devices, the situations where the devices are most helpful, and the ways that the devices could be improved.

Dr. Susan Ponchillia (Oct. 4, 1954 – Oct. 12, 2009), professor in the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies, had a grant from the Macular Disease Foundation and collaborated with College of Health and Human Services doctoral student Amy Freeland to establish national professional standards for vision rehabilitation therapists. Ponchillia also received a grant to collaborate with filmmaker Frank Jamison to create a documentary about the T'licho people who live on Great Slave Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories and the high incidence of congenital blindness among them. She also completed work with husband and colleague, Dr. Paul Ponchillia, and Dr. Lauren Lieberman on a book about teaching sports, physical and recreation activities to persons with blindness, deaf-blindness, or low vision.

Dr. Jennipher Wiebold, CRC, is an associate professor with a joint appointment in the departments of Blindness and Low Vision Studies and Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology. She is researching rehabilitation counseling personnel preparation experiential methodologies through a study investigating the role of Immersion in Blindness Training changing attitudes toward blindness held by pre-training rehabilitation counselors. Wiebold is also engaged in research assessing burnout, compassion fatigue, and compassion satisfaction among blindness and low vision service providers and rehabilitation counselors.