“Have you met Dr. Bonnie Swenor?”
According to Rebecca Rosenberg, the founder of ReBokeh, the partnership between her assistive technology startup and Johns Hopkins University’s Disability Health Research Center (JHDHRC) began more than a year ago through an introduction to Swenor, the center’s director. This collaboration has resulted in the development of Low Vision Connect, a digital community platform, as Rosenberg revealed in an exclusive interview with Technical.ly.
“JHDHRC Founder and Director Dr. Bonnie Swenor and I just really hit it off based on our personal lived experience with vision impairment and the work we were trying to do for the disability community,” Rosenberg told Technical.ly.
Since 2019, Towson-HQed ReBokeh has been committed to providing assistive technology that caters to the specific needs of millions of individuals with low vision. In collaboration with the JHDHRC, located at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, ReBokeh aims to steer the platform toward its primary objective of facilitating authentic connections rooted in personal experiences. Rosenberg believes that these connections will play a vital role in improving the quality of life and promoting independence for individuals with low vision.
Rosenberg explained that within the vision spectrum, some individuals require glasses, contact, or LASIK surgery for improved vision — but they are not, by her definition, visually impaired. On the other end are those who are blind or nearly blind, with minimal functional vision. However, the majority of people with vision impairment fall into an ambiguous middle category, which is where moderate- or low-vision impairment resides. She identified that as the focal point for both ReBokeh’s and JHDHRC’s interests.
“Human connection is vital to mental and emotional health, and social isolation is all-too-common within the low-vision community,” said Swenor in an announcement. “I’m excited to partner with the ReBokeh team to build a platform that addresses that reality. We hope Low Vision Connect will provide a much-needed space for those with low vision to share their lived experiences, find support and build lasting relationships.”
The team is currently in the early stages of developing the platform, with an expected launch in about a year. Rosenberg said that the demand for such interventions is high within low-vision and disability-focused constituencies.
“We think people are eagerly seeking these types of solutions,” she said. “The low vision and disability community as a whole is desperately looking for such opportunities. They yearn for ways to connect with individuals who truly understand their challenges.”
“Unfortunately, disability populations, especially those with moderate vision impairment, have been greatly neglected,” Rosenberg added. “The real challenge lies not only in getting people to adopt a system but also in bringing together individuals who face these challenges. We need their feedback and involvement to test and improve our solutions.”
Development on the community platform is set to commence development this summer, with plans to initiate user testing in the early months of the following year.
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