Talking business with Anthony Haas

Ways to cope with sight loss

Tony drawing

Being Palangi: My Pacific Journey A memoir by me, Anthony Haas, was first published in 2014 in print, then in e-book by Amazon and in audio book by the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind.

I have had a number of visual challenges all my life. I was Chairman of the consumer organisation Retina New Zealand and delegate to Retina International Congresses in Toronto and Tokyo.

Retina 2018 New Zealand will present the most up-to-date knowledge in scientific and clinical research, treatment advocacy and access, rehabilitation best practice, blindness-specific technologies and peer support.

It will examine critical issues associated with expediting the development, accessibility and availability of treatments for retinal disorders.

The February 9-12 Retina international continuing education and international congress at Auckland University will include insight into retinal research in genes and gene therapy, cell therapy and regenerative medicine, retina implant technology, novel drug therapy and epidemiology.

The Retina congress sessions offer practical guidance regardless of where delegates are in their careers or stages in coping with a sight loss. For patients and their families, clinicians and rehabilitation professionals, scientists and students alike, the congress will ensure a learning experience of high value.

For people with low vision seeking to retain independence, there are now a plethora of tools and techniques. But what will work for whom? The congress will deal with making the most of remaining vision.

The specialists will advise patients “How Will I Read, How Will I Write, How Will I Communicate?”

The congress is asking some patients about our experience of “Independence, Self-Determination – Are the Barriers Real?”

Sight impaired people like me have been asked to relate success stories and how we have overcome barriers to realisation of our potential. This is aimed to assist family members, colleagues and friends of people with a sight loss.

My self-determination experience

I became bold at boarding school when a new teacher, acting no doubt on the overprotective intent of my parents, said I should sit in the front row. I decided then that if I had to be up front I might as well get the consequential benefits.

When I realised I could never drive a car, I sought inner city jobs, accessible by walking and public transport.

When time came to get a home my mother pushed me to get an inner city house, which lasted 32 years.

 Your information on services and support

Information will be available at the Retina Congress on services and financial support for blind and visually impaired people. Although some of it will be in complex language, it enables consumers to get access to comparable professional level knowledge.

The congress will ask “Where are we at and what Does the Future Hold?” There will be commentary on the multiple avenues of intervention, including correcting the underlying defect, regenerating damaged retinal cells, preventing further retinal deterioration and providing artificial methods of sensing light.

Stem cell excitement

Retina International reports an exciting future for applying stem cell therapy to treating retinal disorders. How does stem cell therapy generate cells that are lost in retinal disease in order to restore lost function? What are the scientific, ethical and political challenges in the use of stem cells?

Likely to be one of the biggest science stories of the next decade, patients and professions can learn why this powerful and cost-effective new gene-editing technology known as CRISPR makes it much easier for researchers to figure out the biological effect of a gene. The focus is on developing therapies that use this revolutionary “gene surgery” technique to treat inherited diseases.

ahass@decisionmaker.co.nz

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