Imagine losing your eye sight at a young age and growing up without it, and how different your life might be. You would likely have a very different perspective of yourself and your relationship with the world around you. Now imagine what it might be like to regain your vision in an instant, after spending all of your adult life, and most of your childhood as a person experiencing blindness. That is exactly what happened to Daniel Ratcliff, The IC’s Independent Living Benefits Coordinator. I know, this sound like something out of a science fiction movie, and ten or twenty years ago, it would have been. But today, we’re living in a time where technological advancement is leading to many new and innovative assistive devices to help people with disabilities.
Daniel, who was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease at a young age, began losing his vision as fatty deposits accumulated in his eyes, damaging the light sensitive structures, called macula, in the back of his eyes. This process eventually led to the total loss of Daniel’s central vision. Imagine holding a small circular plate in front of your face, where you can see everything around the plate, but nothing where the plate sits. This is what Daniel sees.
After learning about a new technology from a company called eSight that manufactures electronic glasses for people experiencing certain types of blindness, Daniel had the opportunity to give the e-glasses a try. If you haven’t seen the eSight glasses, they look like a thick band of plastic that sits on the face, similar to pair a of conventional glasses. They have forward looking cameras on the front, and screens
that sit in the back, in front of the wearers’ eyes. If you’re wondering what they look like, and are an old-school Star Trek fan, think of the glasses that Lieutenant La Forge wore. They are amazingly similar. The user can adjust the image on the screens to the position that best utilizes their field of vision, helping them to see the areas they are normally missing.
For Daniel, trying the glasses on for the first time was life changing. He was able to see the world in a whole new way. He actually had the opportunity to see his wife and children for the first time, and immediately knew that he had to have a pair of his own. Because of the significant expense of the glasses, buying them immediately just wasn’t an option. Over the next year, Daniel worked with The IC’s Assistive Technology department to apply for grants, and saved up his own money. Eventually, the money came through and Daniel was able to purchase a pair of eSight glasses for himself.
When the glasses finally came in, Daniel was in awe of the world around him. He tells me, “Now I can look into the eyes of my children, and the main time I wear them is when I’m helping my children with their homework.” For the first time, he could see the facial features and eye colors of people he had known for years. He was able to read street signs and actually see beyond the street block he was standing on, and commented that “It’s a very emotional experience, being able to see individual blades of grass, and to see birds for the first time.” The glasses have become a regular part of his daily routine and continue to serve him well as an assistive technology.
To learn more about assistive technology, contact The IC’s Assistive Technology Program at 719-476-3122, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://bit.ly/tools4accessibility