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Group of mature adults in strength training session

KCH professors work with Chicago Lighthouse on a home-based exercise program for low-vision and blind adults


How can accessible, home-based exercise programs be created for low-vision and blind adults? A team from the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the College of Applied Health Sciences will begin collaboration with the Chicago Lighthouse in the spring of 2024 to design one such training plan.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Campus Research Board has provided $25,000 in funding for the Exercise for Visual Impairments and Aging: Co-Designing a Home-Based Exercise Program for Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals (EXVIA) Project for two years. 

“The purpose of this research is to collaboratively design a feasible home-based exercise program for individuals with low vision and blindness,” said KCH Assistant Professor Soyoung Choi, the project’s principal investigator.

EXVIA content will be developed in the spring and summer of 2024, followed by feasibility testing in the fall. Choi, an accessibility researcher and nurse, is joined on the project by her KCH faculty colleagues, assistant professors Susan Aguiñaga and Emerson Sebastião.

The EXVIA team also includes Dr. Schweta Chaudhary, an ophthalmologist and surgical consultant at Hines VA Hospital in Hines, Ill. 

The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, founded in 1906, serves the blind, visually impaired, and Veteran communities with vision rehabilitation services, education, employment opportunities, and assistive technology and will play a key role in EXVIA. Choi noted that Chicago Lighthouse will “support participant recruitment and data collection. Through regular meetings, we will incorporate their expert opinions into developing exercise sessions tailored for individuals with low vision and blindness. We will set up a screen, speakers, and a video camera at The Chicago Lighthouse, serving as the primary data collection site, to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the home-based exercise program.”

Aiming to recruit three low-vision adults and three blind adults to participate, the EXVIA team will distribute information to the Chicago Lighthouse community and ultimately select seven volunteer participants “considering potential dropouts” and ensuring “a balanced representation across variables such as the onset of visual impairment (acquired vs. congenital), gender (male vs. female), and age brackets (20s-30s, 40s-50s),” Choi said.

The workouts will be identified and then designed via group discussion by the team to create eight home-based exercise sessions. Choi described a “focus on key training areas: muscle strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, balance, and bone density and joint health. Each session will be meticulously designed in accordance with the latest evidence-based advancements in exercise science, exercise physiology and adapted physical education, ensuring their effectiveness and acceptability for individuals with low vision and blindness. Upon completing the synthesis of synopses for the regimen, we will then create exercise videos, verbal instructions, and video descriptions.” 

The team will utilize immersive computing and audiovisual resources, including a high-powered PC workstation, virtual video production, and audio recording equipment available at the SCIM Lab at Illinois' Library Scholarly Commons to create the final products.

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