Carrying on in Helen Keller’s Spirit

Martha Snyder Taggart, BrightFocus Editor, Science Communications
  • Science News
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This year, for the first time, BrightFocus presented the Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research. Sometimes called the “Nobel Prize of vision research,” the yearly award honors outstanding individuals whose efforts are helping to rid the world of preventable blindness. The prize was established in 1994 by the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education.

This year’s Helen Keller prize went to two recipients.

Dr. Gordon Legge
Gordon Legge, PhD
Gordon Legge, PhD, is on the psychology and neuroscience faculty of the University of Minnesota and directs its Laboratory for Low Vision Research. Having coped with his own vision disability since childhood, his entire career has been devoted to helping people with low vision surmount the everyday challenges of reading and mobility.

Robert Massof, PhD
Robert Massof, PhD
Robert Massof, PhD, is professor of ophthalmology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and directs the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center. His contributions include the Acuity Inventory, an adaptive visual functioning rating scale that has been used in clinical studies throughout the world. Recently he was the featured guest on BrightFocus’ monthly Macular Degeneration Chats series.

As a nice touch, Keller Johnson-Thompson, Helen Keller’s great-grand-niece was on hand to speak on behalf of the Keller family.

Helen’s Keller’s great-grand-niece, Keller Johnson-Thompson, with honorees.
Helen’s Keller’s great-grand-niece, Keller Johnson-Thompson, with honorees.
She told a story about her great-aunt’s tutor, Anne Sullivan, who suffered from low vision and was virtually neglected as a youngster. Luckily, someone intervened with special services, and that’s what made it possible for Sullivan to grow into her role as a gifted tutor.

BrightFocus President and CEO Stacy Haller also addressed the group and told them about BrightFocus’ mission of raising funds to support research into two of the world’s most frequent causes of blindness: macular degeneration and glaucoma. This year, thanks to donor generosity, BrightFocus was able to award a total of $11 million for grants beginning in 2015 and beyond.

“We support both basic research and clinical trials,” Haller said. “We are best known for supporting scientists early in their careers, helping jump-start many exciting new ideas.”

[Use these links to learn about new research BrightFocus is funding in 2015 through its Macular Degeneration Research, National Glaucoma Research, and Alzheimer's Disease Research grant programs.]