Dr. Wittich’s research domains include basic sensory science, as well as medical, psychosocial, and rehabilitation approaches to sensory loss. Coming from a background in age-related vision loss, he now conducts research in dual sensory impairment and deaf-blindness. Specifically, he examines the use and usability of assistive technologies intended to improve quality of life and social participation of older adults with sensory impairment.
Originally from Germany, Dr. Wittich pursued a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Psychology (Concordia U) and a PhD in Visual Neuroscience (McGill). He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in audiology at the Centre de recherche of the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal. He became a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry in 2011 and in 2012 was certified by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals as Quebec’s first Certified Low Vision Therapist (CLVT).
Areas of Expertise (7)
Dual Sensory Impairment
Low Vision Aid Device Development
10th Annual JT Award, Canadian Helen Keller Centre
Envision Research Award, Envision Conference
Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal: Post-Doctoral Fellow 2012
McGill University: Ph.D., Neuroscience 2010
Concordia University: Master's, Experimental Psychology 2006
Concordia University: B.Sc. Honors, Psychology 2004
- Associate Professor, School of Optometry, Université de Montréal
- Resident Researcher, CRIR/Centre de réadaptation Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay du CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal
- Resident Researcher, CRIR/Institut Nazareth et Louis-Braille du CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre
- Adjunct Professor, School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University
- Affiliate Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Concordia University
- Director, Vision Impairment & Rehabilitation Axis, Quebec Vision Health Research Network
- Chair, Research Network, Deafblind International
Media Appearances (3)
Doctor Walter Wittich on Low Vision Rehabilitation
Montreal-based Doctor Walter Wittich is a prolific researcher and industry expert on low vision and low vision rehabilitation bringing with him 18 years of experience. His deep interest with the visual system has led him to discover new innovations for the community. Doctor Walter Wittich shares an inside look into his latest research, what sparked his passion for low vision rehabilitation and common misconceptions about the low vision community.
Dr. Walter Wittich, UNIVERSITY OF MONTREAL’S SCHOOL OF OPTOMETRY, MONTREAL, QUEBEC We’ve spent a lot of time researching head mounted devices; they’re getting smaller, lighter and cheaper. There’s no longer a stigma attached, and the advantage for the visually impaired is they’re hands-free. For example, they are perfect for playing the piano. A single camera is mounted onto the glasses which in real-time projects a modified picture to two screens on the inside where the lenses would be. This picture can be pre-programmed to change color or enhance an image. Each device requires an OD to carry out a refraction. Prices start at $500 and there’s really no top limit since cost is connected to what the device can do. A competitive field and moving fast.
Interview with Dr. Walter Wittich
DeafBlind Ontario Services
“My research aims to improve functional ability, social participation, and quality of life for persons with vision and/or hearing loss. In addition, I am interested in how these combined impairments influence the use of assistive devices, the stigma related to assistive technologies, and the interactions among the device user, the rehabilitation provider, and the device itself,” said Dr. Wittich.
Featured Articles (5)
The association between tactile, motor and cognitive capacities and braille reading performance: a scoping review of primary evidence to advance research on braille and agingDisability and Rehabilitation
Natalina Martiniello, Walter Wittich
As the prevalence of age-related visual impairment increases, a greater understanding of the physiological and cognitive capacities that are recruited during braille reading and the potential implications of age-related declines is required.
Accessible Virtual Arts Recreation for Wellbeing Promotion in Long-Term Care ResidentsJournal of Applied Gerontology
Kelly J Murphy, Swathi Swaminathan, Elizabeth Howard, Aviva Altschuler, Jessica Rogan, Olivier Beauchet, Kate Dupuis, Liisa AM Galea, David Hogan, Navena Lingum, Gillian Rowe, Lia Tsotsos, Ala Szczepura, Walter Wittich, Feng Xie, Lynn Hasher
The efficacy of a technology-driven visual arts recreation activity, delivered virtually, was evaluated for its potential to achieve positive impacts, similar to traditional arts-interventions, on wellbeing in long-term care residents. Thirty-one residents (average age 86.8 years; SD = 9.4) engaged with the arts-intervention for 30-minutes, twice weekly, for 6 weeks with either a partner or as part of a group. Wellbeing indicators included self-reported psychological and health-related wellness, and attention capacity. Binomial tests of postintervention change revealed a significant above-chance probability of improvement in one or more wellbeing indicators (p < .05). Postparticipation feedback survey scores were positive (p < .05). Cognitive status did not influence outcome; however, other participant characteristics such as younger age, higher openness-to-experience (personality trait), and lower baseline mood were significantly associated with positive response to the intervention (p < .05). Findings demonstrate technology may be an effective platform for promoting accessibility to beneficial arts-interventions for older adults.
Enablers and barriers encountered by working-age and older adults with vision impairment who pursue braille trainingDisability and Rehabilitation
Natalina Martiniello, Leila Haririsanati, Walter Wittich
We explored the experiences of working-age and older adults with acquired vision impairment who pursued braille rehabilitation training, and the facilitators and barriers they encountered throughout this process.
Continuum of Care for Older Adults With Concurrent Hearing and Vision Impairment: A Systematic Review ProtocolPROSPERO Preprint
Atul Jaiswal, Shikha Gupta, Patrice Dupont, Walter Wittich
A recent global report estimates around 2% of the world population (~ 150 million people) to have concurrent hearing and vision di culties (referred to as dual sensory impairment/DSI). Older adults with DSI often experience poorer levels of health and barriers to accessing health services in long-term care, home care and hospitals. Yet, the evidence is limited to inform the healthcare planning for this vulnerable population. Understanding the current state of the continuum of care for older adults with DSI is paramount to determine ways to promote healthy ageing. Hence, the objective of this systematic review is to summarize the information available on the continuum of care and synthesize evidence on existing and emergent strategies of screening, assessment and interventions to optimize care for older adults with DSI.
Meaning and experiences of participation: a phenomenological study with persons with deafblindness in IndiaDisability and Rehabilitation
Atul Jaiswal, Heather M Aldersey, Walter Wittich, Mansha Mirza, Marcia Finlayson
Deafblindness, also known as dual sensory loss, creates a distinct condition more disabling than either deafness or blindness alone. The participation experiences of persons with deafblindness have not been understood well. This phenomenological study aims to understand the meanings of participation for persons with deafblindness and identify the domains of life that are important to them.