New Venture News: Low Vision Readers bring hope to patients

The best part of problem is the solution. And that’s just what Jeffrey Sonsino, assistant professor and ophthalmologist, did when he invented Low Vision Readers. For years, he had been treating patients with macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and cataract. The biggest complaint he heard from his patients was that they had lost the ability to read. After years suggesting magnifying glasses, bright lights and prisms, he decided to build a pair of prescription based glasses that would serve all three purposes.


Low Vision Readers combine bright lights, a prismatic magnifier into a lightweight pair of glasses that help individuals with vision impairment regain their ability to read. They aren’t designed for just anybody. There is a fairly specific audience, and Dr. Sonsino says patients should be prescribed and fitted by their eye care practitioner.


Dr. Sonsino’s Low Vision Readers were more than just a solution to a problem. They served as the foundation for his entrance into the entrepreneurial world. To best manage the Low Vision Readers and make sure they get into the hands of the right patients, Dr. Sonsino launched a company that currently operates out of the Vanderbilt Eye Institute. This new venture is not alone. It illustrates a growing trend in university startups, here and around the nation. A trend Vanderbilt has embraced and is working to support through the creation of a New Ventures team that operates inside CTTC.

Vanderbilt holds patents around this technology.


Below are a few commonly asked questions about the Low Vision Readers.

Is there an ideal candidate?

The ideal candidate is someone who has macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, or glaucoma who has difficulty seeing up close.  Their vision ranges from 20/50 to 20/160 in the better-seeing eye.


How do they turn on?

The light on the glasses is powered by the same technology NASA uses in satellites. A tiny magnet inside the temple triggers the light when they are opened. This means the switch should not break within the lifetime of the glasses.


How long is the charge?

The glasses have electronics in the temple that drive the light so that it stays at the same output for six hours before it shuts off. There is no loss of light intensity as the person wears the glasses, as in the cheap lighted reading glasses. The glasses are rechargeable, so patients can simply plug them in at the end of six hours and recharge them.


Why the prism?

It allows individuals to focus at a closer distance without eye strain. The prism tricks the brain into thinking the image is farther away than it is. The eyes don’t get as tired with the Low Vision Readers.


What do they cost and are they covered by insurance?

Like other optical devices, insurance does not cover the cost for the Low Vision Readers. Dr. Sonsino and his team were able to manufacture and distribute the readers for less than the cost of regular bifocals.