5 years of VICTA and OT collaboration

I’m preparing for OT week next week (21st – 25th October) where we are planning to celebrate five years of collaborations between occupational therapy and VICTA (vision impairment charitable trust Aotearoa).

Five years ago we were faced with a whole lot of nothing. The Blind Foundation was going through a really bad phase; we had lost most of the vision rehab clinics around the country; we had gone through a massive process of lobbying the government without success (petition; select committee and national reference group all led to……a leaflet). In the middle of all that cynicism and hitting rock bottom – we decided to ‘start where we were’….the advice given to us by Krister Inde (the father of low vision services in Europe). So we have done what we could over the last five years – and, as I say, I think that it’s a story worth telling and celebrating.

We’ll have a couple of events next week (21st – 25th is International Occupational Therapy week).

  • First there will be a talk about the simple lessons we’ve learned about vision impairment at the VICTA meeting on Wednesday 23rd at the Dunningham suite of the public library between 1.30 – 3pm (including the cuppa).
  • And on Friday we will set up at the centre city mall: my students and I will do vision screening, and we’ll collect ‘spectacle stories’ from passers by (everyone has a story about how they got spectacles).

We’ve been trying to remember the many things that we have done together before it all fades into the mists of time. It’s been an incredibly productive relationship. The projects are probably only the tip of the iceberg in terms of explaining how rich the relationship has been in terms of learning for occupational therapy. Our mission is to create a workforce that can provide the kind of service that people with low vision deserve. The VICTA group (started by Lynley Hood and Gordon Sanderson) has been the best little focus group you could ever imagine – and the people attending it have educated five years of occupational therapy students.

So here are some of the things that we have got up to.

2015: The big mission of this year was establishing a postgraduate course in low vision. This was launched and started to attract clinicians. We were supported by occupational therapists and vision rehabilitation experts from all around the world. We know that once skills are lost in New Zealand that it can be hard to get them back. This course was our line in the sand. Occupational therapists in every other part of the world are considered experts in low vision. We were determined to start the learning journey the only way we could.

2016: We got funding from the Participatory Science Platform to run a series of workshops teaching older people about the science of light (aka changing their lightbulbs). We wrote this up for a couple of journals and we started doing a series of home assessments about lighting.

2016: We ran the World Sight Day at the Octagon. This featured teams of interesting people (like the police) who took on the challenge of riding around an obstacle course on a mobility scooter (with vision occluding goggles). There were lots of vision simulation activities and we screened the lighting for most of the local cafes and gave them a failing grade for their lighting.

November/Dec 2017/Jan 2108 Drop in clinic set up in the Southern Dunedin Community Hub: talked to 25 people

July 2017: started a series of conversations about establishing a low vision clinic at the Eye Department. Still proceeding with conversations.

2017: We got a Lotterty Community grant ($7000) to purchase a library of devices to lend to people with low vision and purchased 6 devices and a box to hold them securely. In February 2018 we started an intergenerational volunteering project with Information Technology students, where they went to the South Dunedin Community Hub to teach older people to use their devices. We also gave a longterm loan of an iPad to a visually impaired tertiary student in July 2017)

April 2017: Trialled iPads with 12 patients in the local hospital, teaching them accessability and vision-related apps

November 2017: we established a Steady As You Go group at the South Dunedin Community Hub, in association with Age Concern and an OT student. This continues to run week weekly and has expanded way past visual impairment

Nov – Dec 2017: Coffee group established for a group of three who met weekly in different venues

November 2017: Student established a small sensory garden for one person

February 2018: Completed a life review book for one person in the group.

April 2017: 8 lighting assessments done

April 2017: development of a vision tracking app, trialled with one person

August 2017: Vision simulation lessons (with a focus on grief) given to 5 x year 10 classes at Kavanagh College

September 2017: run a vision simulation study where we teach 25 people about visual impairment. This was funded by Retina New Zealand. We couldn’t have done it without a group of first year occupational therapists who ran the activities. This meant that we only had to collect the data.

September 2018: Save Sight Symposium. This was a collaboration between Retina, VICTA and Otago Polytechnic and it highlighted much of the work that we did during 2018: https://www.op.ac.nz/about-us/news-and-events/item/3132

  • Occupational therapy students, Samantha Gush and Nimaya Wasala Mudiyanselage, prepared the lunch as a reflection of the keynote speech about diet as part of their community project fieldwork placement.
  • IT students developed an app for the Eyes Right Toolkit: https://hail.to/otago-polytechnic-research/publication/dAmKLYK/article/OLAXavd

This can be downloaded at the GooglePlay store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.op.nz.eyesright&hl=en

  • OT students screened children at Kaikorai Valley high school using the Eyes Right Toolkit: https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/vision-problems-found-pupils; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-FwAPQIlzE&feature=youtu.be
  • Professor Kelechi Ogbuehi gave a presentation on computer vision syndrome (which followed up the message to the Kaikorai Valley school children, and the bookmark made to mark the occasion): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdnNPN5hABM&feature=youtu.be
  • Keri McMullan gave a presentation about mobility scooters and self regulation, which was the outcome of her masters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2_NXT3TeG8&feature=youtu.be
  • A town and gown debate between
  • Three student volunteers on the ‘gown’ side were Connor Newman, Ed Robinson, Keegan Burrow. And, on the ‘town’ side, there was Emeritus professor Helen Leach; Dame Pat Harrison; ex-Labour MP Marion Hobbes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFDURWeNgVY&feature=youtu.be
  • The School of IT provided a desk where they highlighted some of the work they have been doing as volunteers with older adults needing help with digital devices. They have also done work developing various apps, and these were referred to in their talk by Adon Moskal (IT lecturer), with IT volunteers Rob Burroughs, Chris Garbutt, Grayson Orr, Mark Gowans and Sam Singh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeH6TNgbfCg&feature=youtu.be
  • Virtual reality simulation app was developed by Michael Barnes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeH6TNgbfCg&feature=youtu.be

The app can be downloaded here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.op.mike.vis&hl=en

  • Karley Parker gave a talk about “Upper Cross Syndrome”. This was a wonderful coming together of the expert knowledge of a young student with visual impairment who has done degrees in both massage and social studies.
  • Filmmaking students Ariane Eyles and Bailey Carter made and edited the films (above). They did this completely voluntarily.
  • Christine Regina Goes, a postgraduate event management student, donated 120 volunteer hours to the event.

In 2019

IT students Fawaz, Connor and Aidyn developed an eye scanning game for people with stroke or locked in syndrome: This is featured on the Stroke Visual Rehabilitation Setup Guide webpage: https://fawazd.github.io/svr-setup.github.io/

And the repository with the code can be found here:


This project is continuing in Sept – Nov 2019 with two occupational therapy students (Eliza Booth and Kerri Battin) who are field testing the games with two clients with stroke. They are then organising to take these stories to a group of occupational therapists to see whether they can imagine using the eye gazing gamified therapy in their practice.

Mary Butler and Prof Kelechi Ogbuehi are continuing to trial and develop the Eyes Right Toolkit with schoolchildren. This is going pretty well and we were in the paper today: https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/tahuna-pupils-trial-eyesight-testing-kit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *