There are two different types of electronic glasses that can be used to help people who are blind or have low vision to navigate the world around them. In the front cover article about The IC’s Benefits Coordinator, Daniel Ratcliff, these types of glasses can be used for individuals with low vision, such as macular degeneration, or in Daniel’s case, Stargardt’s disease. For Daniel, though he doesn’t have central vision, he does have his peripheral vision. This allows him to see the images being projected on the screens in front of his eyes, thus enhancing thru magnification, his eyesight. But what about people who are completely blind?
For individuals experiencing complete blindness, the inability to receive the necessary visual input, makes it impossible for eSight style glasses to work for their needs. Luckily, there is a whole different category of electronic glasses that were created to address this need. In 2014, a company called Aira (Aira.io) was founded when an innovative entrepreneur became friends with a communications professional who is blind. From the friendship, arose a revolutionary idea, to use Google Glass as a platform to help people who are blind. If you aren’t familiar with Google Glass, it’s basically a pair of non-prescription glasses with a built-in video camera to capture and record video of everything the wearer sees.
The way Aira works, is by relaying the live video feed being captured by the glasses, to a computer in another location. A person watches the video feed and explains to the wearer what they see. They can also see their location on a map from the GPS in the user’s phone. This provides a significant amount of information to the wearer to help them better perceive the world around them. Imagine being in a restaurant without a Braille menu, trying to pick out what to eat. With Aira, the menu would be read to you, and you could easily make the decision on what to order. When standing at a street intersection, you could quickly learn what street you’re standing on and avoid going in the wrong direction.
Both varieties of electronic glasses truly are an amazing advancement for individuals who have low vision or are blind. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about electronic glasses or other adaptive technologies, visit our “Tools for Accessibility” page at http://bit.ly/tools4accessibility.