Technology and Therapy Can Help the Legally Blind See the Future

Too many older people with age related loss of vision are getting the wrong message when they are told there is nothing to be done about their condition. It may be true that the lost vision is permanent, but as Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports, there are ways to enhance their limited remaining vision.

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As one's vision fades so too can one's spirit.

"I just kind of quit. I mean you talk about somebody who just shut-down, I'm ashamed to say they I basically did."

That's Lee Anthony, a retired art teacher and assistant principal with the Pasadena School District. He says when he could no longer read and became legally blind and lost his spirit he spent his time sitting in chair guessing what was on TV. He knew about the University of Houston Center for Sight Enhancement and finally gave it a try. That decision changed his life.

"There is no way that I could tell you or anybody else how much this has helped me."

He is not only reading again but also making pen and ink drawings, and stacked art, in which he uses an exacto-knife to cut his drawings and stack them to make a three dimensional presentation. He's back to being an artist with the help of a closed circuit TV devise.

"I place the paper or whatever else I want to read or draw on, underneath the sliding portion under the screen. It has a camera there and it projects what I'm doing onto the screen, which I can blow up to 17 times larger. I can make a pencil line as wide as my finger."

He has a computer that enlarges print up to 12 times and even reads it, and he also has a devise that allows him to use his power tools for woodworking. Lee Anthony's case is not at all unusual according to Dr. Stanley Woo, the Director of the Center for Sight Enhancement.

"You can get folks in who think that there's no vision left, that they've been labeled "legally blind" and that they have to conserve their vision and not use it. With low vision rehabilitation, the use of assistive technology and training with a variety of different professionals, they can really regain a lot of the function and independence and joy that they've previously experienced and Mr. Anthony is a great example of that."

Lee Anthony has even gone back into the classroom as a substitute teacher at a private school. But of all the things he now does the most important is telling others about low vision therapy.

"There's people put there who have not been told that once you can not see as well as you did, once the doctor says there's nothing more that I can do to improve your vision, you need to learn to use what you still have. There are people out there and devises that can help you immensely."

A low vision support group meets the 4th Saturday of the month from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the University Eye Institute at the University of Houston.

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