VisionLink Report to the Community

We are pleased to share our 2023-2024 Report to the Community on our work as the source, the trusted link, to a coordinated network of instruction and education, resources, and providers for adults living with vision loss in the Philadelphia region.


Part One: Leadership Message

A Growing Need

Visual impairment is the third leading cause of disability globally, and the number of people living with vision loss worldwide is expected to increase exponentially, primarily due to aging, over the next 30 years. In the U.S., some 12.5 million people over age 40 report some level of vision loss, and in Pennsylvania, according to a 2022 report by VisionServe Alliance, nearly 137,000 adults age 65 or older report the same, with women, Black adults, and those age 80+ at the most risk. In Philadelphia, the number of impacted adults over age 18 stands at more than 53,000, according to a 2024 study by Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) commissioned by VisionLink and supported by the Independence Blue Cross Foundation.

The numbers are sobering, and no matter the circumstance, when individuals experience vision loss, it is compounded by concerns about what diminished eye sight will mean for their everyday lives. “Will I be able to take care of myself or my family?” “Can I live by myself?” “Can I work?” “How will I do the things I love to do?”

That is exactly where VisionLink comes in.

A Hub for Education, Resources, Support

VisionLink, formerly Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, is a gateway to comprehensive, community-based resources and educational opportunities. We have a client-centered focus to help Philadelphians facing vision loss navigate their every day, do the things they love to do, and live as independently as they wish. With one call from someone with vision loss or a referral from a family member, friend, caregiver, physician or other healthcare professional, our staff works one-on-one with individuals to assess their specific needs and personal goals and then tailor a program to meet them, opening up a world of educational opportunities, resources, and ancillary services.

Through VisionLink, clients can access personal and home management courses, orientation and mobility instruction, assistive technology instruction, and community-based programs, and all of our program enrollment is personalized for each client through one-on-one consultations. We’ve also taken our programming to where our clients are – delivering it online or by conference calls, so clients can participate from home, and also in-person in their communities. 

In addition to our direct services to teach adaptive skills, our staff makes informed referrals to other agencies and organizations for wraparound resources and services; builds collaborative relationships with community-based organizations and agencies for additional programming and in-community instruction; and conducts outreach to all types of entities to help enhance the accessibility of the city and region.

In the last year, particularly, we also redoubled our efforts to be a major presence among Philadelphia’s healthcare, senior living, social work, and home health aide professionals, educating these providers on VisionLink’s role as their best, most comprehensive resource for patient referrals as well as our complete client enrollment process and ongoing connection to referring medical providers.

As we’ve worked to expand the reach of our organization, we’ve also strategically built our senior leadership team and staff as well as our Board of Directors. We’ve added more healthcare and education expertise and enhanced organizational diversity, including those with personal and professional experience as part of the vision loss community.

What’s Next

The last few years have been extraordinary.

  • We created a new era for our organization, renaming ourselves as VisionLink, building on decades of experience in this work, and fortifying our position as the destination, the first place to turn to for information, education, referrals, and support.
  • We designed new ways of delivering services. Remote learning online and by phone, which was made necessary by the pandemic, is now a mainstay of our portfolio given the ease and convenience online access provides for our clients and the enhanced reach it makes possible for the organization.
  • We initiated new ways of working with community partners, and new ways of advancing and contributing to the city’s and region’s accessibility, all in service of expanding our outreach and ability to meet the growing need and number of Philadelphians with vision loss.

We are incredibly grateful to the medical and community-based organizations who have partnered with us to do more for people with vision loss in meaningful, coordinated ways. We are also so thankful for the energy and passion of our staff, our Board of Directors, and our donors, all of whom make the work possible.

We expect more creative approaches and solutions will be ahead for VisionLink and our clients – present and future – as we complete a new strategic planning effort in the coming year to ensure the organization is well prepared to meet the growing need for services and support for those with age-related vision issues, especially.

We invite you to read through the additional sections of this Community Report to learn more about our service areas and partnerships.

And, as always, thank you for your interest in and support of VisionLink.

Karla S. McCaney, MBA
President & Chief Executive Officer

Kevin Brown
Chairperson, Board of Directors

“Feeling supported by a community of people who understand my challenges and how to cope with them has been vital for my mental health. All these factors combined have greatly improved my quality of life over what it was earlier this year, and I am grateful.”

– VisionLink Client

A mature woman with glasses, smiling.

Part Two: VisionLink Program Updates

Educational Programs

VisionLink’s educational programs are designed to address clients’ goals through instruction to adapt to their changing vision. As we enroll each client, our expert Program Navigators provide one-on-one consultations to determine the courses that can best support an individual’s goals and desired skill-building. In addition, we tailor each client’s learning path to their degree of vision loss and consider factors such as other medical conditions, lifestyle, and living arrangements.

In the last year, we have continued to expand our direct service offerings in ways that meet clients where they are and through their preferred mode of learning, whether that’s in person in their communities, by phone, or online.

Our educational programs include these three categories:

  • Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) and Independent Living Courses

    In the last year, we enhanced our courses to not only teach independent living skills but to do so with a focus on both the hard and soft skills that can help support clients’ personal and social adjustment to living with vision loss. Instructors teach non-visual techniques and skills in meal preparation; home care, cleaning, and organization; shopping and identifying currency; and identifying medications. The programs use a combination of classroom-based instruction, participatory workshops, and one-on-one tutorials and occur both virtually and at convenient community centers and centralized locations like Wills Eye Hospital and Inglis House, where we began in-person instruction in July 2023. 
  • Assistive Technology Classes

    A centerpiece of our suite of educational programs, VisionLink’s Assistive Technology courses truly open a seemingly endless array of pathways to independence. Clients learn to use iPhones and iPads and devices such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and computers to access an array of voice-activated apps and achieve everything from shopping via Instacart and Amazon, reading on Audible or the community-building site Goodreads, or identifying items via barcodes in the grocery store or a home pantry.

  • Orientation & Mobility Training (O&M)

    O&M or white cane training is provided one-on-one instruction in the community. Our skilled trainer teaches according to a client’s individual goals and abilities. Clients learn skills and techniques to increase their awareness of their surroundings, wherever they are. They can also learn to navigate the regional public transportation system, enhancing their ability to travel as they wish.  


individuals equipped with 900 adaptive items


increase in clients 
served from 2020-23


referrals made to 160 individuals in 2023

Coming Soon! Low Vision Resource Center

An exciting development will debut in 2024 with the opening of our Low Vision Resource Center. By appointment, clients will receive one-on-one consultations, engage in one-on-one instruction, and have access to informed, warm referrals to wraparound medical and social services depending on a client’s individual needs and situation. Through the Center, clients will also have access to a range of adaptive devices and equipment for demonstration and purchase, such as iPhones, magnifiers, bump dots, liquid levelers, and more. In anticipation of the new Low Vision Resource Center, we are currently working in space at Wills Eye Hospital to consult with clients and conduct workshops in person.

Lighthouse for the Blind

For those with economic challenges, we are particularly proud to be able to offer financial assistance to offset the cost of adaptive devices, technology, and equipment as the administrators of the Philadelphia Lighthouse for the Blind. In the past four years, we’ve equipped 200 individuals with more than 900 adaptive items.

Strengthening Community Connections for a More Accessible Philadelphia

A significant area of growth for VisionLink over the past year has been the expansion of our network of community collaborators. The importance of this is threefold:

  • We are deepening the network of professionals, social service agencies, and other support organizations that we can confidently refer clients to for wraparound support and enrichment experiences; and
  • It has increased the number of client referrals we are receiving from these professionals and organizations; and
  • We are providing training and outreach to these organizations to enhance the accessible accommodations of their operations so that when our clients and others with vision loss engage with them, it is a productive and positive experience.

We are now working with more than 40 different community collaborators, including medical providers and a variety of organizations that address housing, employment, medical services, social services and cultural enrichment. Through this network, in 2023 alone, we were able to make more than 700 referrals to 160 individuals. A partial list of community providers and collaborators is here:

  • Accessible Pharmacy
  • ArtReach
  • Blind Institute of Technology
  • Center for Health Equity (Black Doctor’s Consortium)
  • Comcast
  • Community College of Philadelphia
  • Community Wellness Hub at Drexel University
  • Dornsife Center – Drexel University
  • Free Library of Philadelphia
  • Hadley School
  • Inglis Community Services
  • Jefferson Health
  • Jefferson Occupational Therapy
  • Jefferson Pharmacy
  • Legal Clinic for the Disabled
  • Library of Accessible Media for Pennsylvanians
  • Mayor’s Commission for People with Disabilities
  • Opera Philadelphia
  • Overbrook School for the Blind
  • Penn Medicine
  • Penn Medicine at Home
  • Philadelphia Ballet
  • Philadelphia Corporation for Aging
  • Philly Touch Tours
  • SALUS University Eye Institute
  • San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
  • Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition (SEMAAC)
  • Tech Owl
  • VisionServe Alliance
  • Wills Eye Hospital

Overall, the past several years have been a story of important growth and evolution for VisionLink. From Fiscal Years 2020 through 2023, the number of individuals served by VisionLink increased by 47%, and in the last year, alone, our community outreach engagements grew by more than 135%. That trend continues today.

Through continued outreach and communication, a continued commitment to deepening and diversifying our curriculum, and a continued focus on expanding our community partnerships and resource network, our aim is to further strengthen VisionLink’s position as:

  • the singular source for education, referrals, and support for adults with vision loss in the Philadelphia region;
  • the trusted referral for medical providers and related health care professionals who work with individuals with vision loss; and
  • the organization that is continually working to improve accessibility for those with vision loss in the Philadelphia region.

“We meet clients where they are. They want the services that fit into their lives at a particular moment and that can give them the kind of freedom they may not have.”

– Sylvia Purnell, Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships

Alexis Morrison, Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (left) and Sylvia Purnell (right)

Alexis Morrison, Vision Link’s Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, and Sylvia Purnell, Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships, seated at a table at a community outreach event.
Photo of Dr. Ranjoo Prasad in her ophthamology office.

“VisionLink is at the center of the continuum of care for individuals experiencing vision loss. For providers, there is one place where they can send a patient and know that they will get the resources and support that they need. And for patients, there's that one place that they can go to get the resources that they need.”

–– Dr. Ranjoo Prasad, VisionLink Board of Directors

Play Dr. Prasad's video

Our thanks to all those who support VisionLink.

Your giving makes a difference.


A senior man with eyeglasses, seated, using his smartphone.