It can be a huge journey to regain confidence and independence after experiencing sudden vision loss. Adapting to a new way of life will take time.
It’s natural for someone to grieve for the sight they once had and to feel slightly overwhelmed about what lies ahead. You will understandably be wary about going out, following instructions and undertaking tasks.
Assistive technology and living aids exist to help you on completing functional tasks. If you have low or no vision, tools and devices incorporating increased touch, vibration and sound mean you can do things you never thought possible.
VisAbility Occupational Therapist Keearny is our roaming occupational therapist supporting clients like Ric. Living in Geraldton, aged 62, he lost his vision suddenly.
Ric lives with his wife, Justine. Keearny visits Ric at his Geraldton home. He also undertakes occupational therapy sessions at VisAbility in Victoria Park when he’s in the city for health consultations.
Justine is returning to work, so Ric wants skills and tools to help him when he is on his own.
Together Ric and Keearny compiled a list of goals for him based on his needs. Ric wanted:
- Greater independence in the kitchen. The ability to read recipes, cook, chop, and peel vegetables. Ric wanted more organisation throughout the house – in the pantry, storage and cupboard areas, so he could locate items easier.
- To undertake chores and duties at home, including washing dishes and clothes and using appliances.
- To use his computer and mobile phone with the help of assistive technology.
- A device to help him track time and dates.
- To learn how technology could help him to use his laptop and mobile phone. He wanted to make appointments, manage finances online, and pay bills and use bank ATMs.
- To shop independently and read price labels and recognise notes and coinage.
One of the most popular everyday pieces of assistive tech that exists for people with vision loss is the PenFriend 3 (link opens in new window) available through our Resource Centre. It’s an audio labelling system that’s very simple to use.
It’s versatile and perfect around the home. Keearny introduced Ric to this ingenious, relatively low-cost device funded through the Consumables budget of NDIS.
Ric can record his voice through the microphone on the top of the pen onto sticky and magnetic labels. They can go onto medication, clothing, food, toiletries, cleaning products, etc. A sensor on the bottom of the PenFriend identifies what’s in front of him and reads it back. In addition, the stickers can also accommodate tactile information such as large print or Braille words.
It’s similar in size and shape to a writing pen and comes with a lanyard, so you won’t lose it and comes with high contrast and tactile buttons.
In addition, it has another role – the PenFriend can imitate an MP3 music player or talking book because it can store 250 hours of recordings. If you add an SD card, the voice labelling system has even greater capacity.
The PenFriend will give Ric greater independence to find items at home.
One piece of assistive technology that truly stands out from others is the OrCam MyEye Pro – part of the OrCam suite of technology. The first OrCam MyEye device was launched in 2015. OrCam technology is groundbreaking.
Occupational Therapist Keearny knew an OrCam device would open up the opportunity for Ric to complete a multitude of tasks. It’s popular because it’s highly portable and small. The artificial piece of technology allows people with vision impairment to understand the text and identify objects and people through audio feedback.
An OrCam device clipped to glasses can do things that most people take for granted – such as recognising who is in front of you and reading material, such as wording on any packets.
What’s more, you can purchase them through the NDIS using your funding. The wearable device mounts to the frames of glasses using magnets and can read screens, bills, and newspapers.
How does Orcam MyEye Pro work?
Keearny has been explaining to Ric how it works in a session held at VisAbility’s Assistive Technology Room. Activation starts with an intuitive pointing gesture.
“The OrCam MyEye Pro has a small camera at one end that reads barcodes and texts. Its design also means it can register faces and objects, as long as these are registered and known to the device,” Keearny explains.
“Once the OrCam recognises what’s in front, it announces the name of the person or item in front. It will also let you know the number of people in front of you.”
The OrCam device starts reading when you point your finger to the text on a screen or a piece of paper or when you press the start/trigger button. Once you press the start button, you’ll hear a beep and see a pink light. If you block the text or screen with your hand, the device will stop reading.
Keearny offered to record operator instructions about the OrCam MyEye Pro on a memo device called the Multi Memo Voice Recorder sold in our Resource Centre.
The OrCam MyEye Pro has a battery life of two hours for active or four hours inactive use. It can be easily powered through a charger. In addition, software updates are readily available.
Find out more
If you’d like to discover how the PenFriend 3 and OrCam MyEye Pro can help you to do everyday tasks, why not get in touch? Occupational therapists can advise what’s best for you. We have an Assistive Tech suite so you can investigate any high cost tech items before purchasing it through your funding.
Please complete the form below to make an initial enquiry about the low vision services and support we can provide. Our Client Experience Team will contact you to discuss your individual needs both now and into the future.
If you are a provider and wish to refer a client, please use our low vision medical certificate (online referral form) to make your referral.