Ocutech supports optometrist who created non-profit to serve visually impaired children in Namibia

Dr. Chantal Overvliet, of the Oculus Vision Centre in Windhoek, is the sole optometrist providing low vision care in all of Namibia. After learning of the urgent needs of the 132 children at the country’s only school for the visually impaired, she and her business partner and Low Vision assistant, Michelle Opperman, created a non-profit project to provide high-level low vision testing and products to the students. The school’s principal, Smithly Engelbrecht, said he was so grateful for the important work Dr. Overvliet is doing.

In the back row: Chantal Overvliet (Optometrist at Oculus Low Vision Centre), Mr. Smithly Engelbrecht (Principal), Ms. Beverly Coussement (Public Relations Officer at NAMDIA), Mrs. Mugunda (Teacher), Mr. Andreas (Teacher) and Michelle Opperman (Low Vision Support at Oculus Low Vision Centre) with the Prevocational and Grade 9 learners of the School.

Since close to 80% of these students are from less privileged households, their families could not afford the high-quality low vision aids that would allow the children to maximize their educational opportunities. The testing process, which was provided by Oculus at no cost, took close to a year to complete as it had to be scheduled between the daily functions of the practice. Once their vision needs were identified, Dr. Overvliet approached many organizations in search of funding to provide these special low vision aids to these deserving children.

After visiting the school and learning about its programs and seeing the amazing work done by the teachers and administration, the Renaissance Health Medical Aid Fund selected the project as their biggest Corporate Social Investments (CSI) to date. According to the fund, part of their sponsorship and CSI policy focuses on youth and health-related issues.  “We came to understand that children with visual impairments will find it hard to get through life without the necessary early life training and visual and mobility aids required. These services can make a real impact for these children and on society and this need fit exactly into our fund’s social investment mission,” said Kwendhi Amagulu, Renaissance’s senior marketing officer. Namdia, the Namibian diamond company, has also become a sponsor of the project.

Ocutech was pleased and honored to have its products selected for these children and offered special reduced pricing to enable the project to reach as many children as possible. They are especially well received by children due to their ease of use, wearing comfort and hi-tech appearance.  They are designed to be easy and convenient for low vision specialists to fit and prescribe and can be updated as children grow.

Overvliet’s and Opperman’s joint passion is to enhance vision for visually impaired children in Namibia. “Our goal is to help them maximize their academic and personal potential to allow them to become productive members in their communities,” they said.

Michelle Opperman (Low Vision Support) demonstrating how to use the VES Sport telescope to a Grade 9 learner.

To contact the Oculus Vision Centre visit www.oculusvisioncentre.com.

In back row: Chantal Overvliet (Optometrist at Oculus Low Vision Centre), Mr. Smithly Engelbrecht (Principal), Ms. Beverly Coussement (Public Relations Officer at NAMDIA), Mrs. Mugunda (Teacher) and Michelle Opperman (Low Vision Support at Oculus Low Vision Centre) with all the children that received the VES Sport telescopes and Sightscopes.

Link to Press Release: Downloadable PDF

Open Your World With Low Vision Care

OCUTECH, Inc., the worldwide leader in developing advanced bioptic telescopes for the visually impaired, has released a special video called “Open Your World with Low Vision Care” in celebration of Low Vision Awareness and Macular Degeneration month.

Over 5 million individuals in the US alone have reduced vision from disease, injury or genetic disorders. Low vision is not improvable with conventional eyeglasses, contacts, medication or surgery. However, low vision care can help individuals maximize their vision to enable them to see and do things they may never have thought possible.

A referral for low vision care is now the standard of care. Every individual with reduced vision deserves to learn about and have access to modern technology that can help them enhance their sight and “Open their World” to opportunities.

If you, a friend, or a loved one has reduced vision, ask your eye care professional for a referral for low vision care.  

Interview with Patrick Raymond

In this interview, we touch on several of aspects of Patrick’s life including how his parents raised him to look past his eye condition and embrace the world for everything it has to offer. We discuss wearing assistive devices in public and the anxiety that can go along with it. We also explore ways that teachers and parents can help minimize a low vision student’s fears in the classroom. Hopefully, by talking about these issues, we can help someone else that is experiencing similar feelings or situations.

You can find Patrick Raymond on his blog @ https://runyourdaytips.wordpress.com/

Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/runyourdaytips/

Instagram @ https://www.instagram.com/runyourdayfitness/

Patrick Raymond – Optic Nerve Hypoplasia

1. Where are you located and who is your low vision specialist?

I live just outside of New Haven, CT.  My low vision specialist is Dr. Christopher Inclima

2. Did your low vision doctor recommend Ocutech bioptics or did you learn about them from another source (media, friend, etc)?

I learned about bioptic lenses through my mom.  After googling magnification glasses, she came across Ocutech and immediately sent me a link to Ocutech’s website.  I emailed my case worker (provided to me by the state of CT) and inquired about these glasses. At my next low vision appointment, the doctor submitted a recommendation to the state for Ocutech bioptics.

3. You had diminished acuity from birth, but was not truly aware how different your vision was from others until age 9? Do you have any advice for young kids experiencing vision loss for the first time or just realizing it like yourself?

My first piece of advice would be for the parent/parents to nurture the idea of uniqueness. Often, there is a negative connotation felt by kids and teens with wearing glasses or bioptics, using assistive technology, sitting close to the tv/blackboard, etc. Vision loss should be seen as a unique trait and not as a “loss.” I would highly encourage parents to be vigilant with their child’s moods, emotions, and to communicate frequently about their daily lives.

Keep your child active.  Understand where physical obstacles exist. Keep your child safe, steer him/her around, but at the same time, just let your kid be a kid!  A visually impaired child should experience as much as they can– like any other normal sighted child. (As long as they are safe, being active and experiencing as much as possible is key.)

Next, research your State’s services for the blind.  Each state is different and it is important to discover criteria for eligibility; and then, take advantage of these services for your child while he/she is still in school.

Advice for a visually impaired child: run, walk, swim, kick, skip, throw, smell, taste, touch, hear, feel, and catch!

Also, create a signal between a parent and a child in case of separation.  I choose to have people clear their throat hard.   I can hear well so that allows me to identify the person as well as identify their general vicinity.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

4. Do you have any advice for teachers (like the one you had when you were 9) who might have a visually impaired student in their class and how they can help support inclusiveness and provide a safe environment for the student? Any advice for parents of young children as well?

I’d advise parents to stay in communication with teachers as often as possible – a quick check-in may be all that’s necessary. Also, keep an eye out for any behavioral changes, difficulties with subjects or visual aids in the classroom.

My advice for teachers: be aware and educated on the student’s learning style, their condition, visual aids, and most of all show compassion for the difficulty that a child with a visual impairment will experience in a classroom setting.  Given that the student will most likely perceive that all attention is on him/her, as a teacher, do your best not to actively draw unnecessary attention to the student, especially around their peers.  The visually impaired student will most likely be well aware of what he/she needs to help themselves.  If an issue needs to be addressed, wait until after class to talk about the situation one-on-one.  I always preferred to be treated like my fellow classmates and allowed the leeway to make my own adjustments with my teacher’s blessing.

6. I find your statement about how you continue to strengthen your ability to identify an image through context incredibly powerful.  The idea of “tapping” into other senses and testing the limits of brain flexibility in order to identify an object or person (same goal as fully sighted individual, but completely different method to achieve it) is something that should be shared and encouraged – Can you expand a little on this topic and provide a couple tips on how someone with low vision could practice this technique?

Throughout my life, I would look at and consciously remember pictures of the objects.  Sometimes I will walk up extremely close to an object in order to see the detail and effectively “store” these details in my memory.  I will also find bigger objects that usually surround a smaller object (that are more easily identifiable), which may allow me to surmise the smaller object’s identity.  When I enter a particular environment (a grocery store for example) I will ask myself what types of objects, signs or people I may encounter in the particular environment?  Just to be prepared.  I heavily rely on my memory to safely navigate through environments and find what I need to find. 

Also, I remember smells and sounds to gather further clues regarding objects or potential hazards.  I can identify restaurants that I am in or pass solely by their scent or sound, even with my eyes closed.

My goal is to narrow down the possibilities of people and things in a particular environment by drawing from previous experience.  In a new situation and environment, I’ll walk around, if possible, to acclimate and familiarize myself with the smells, sounds, and identifiable objects such as stairs.

7. When do you use your SightScope?  What are its limitations in terms of your eye condition?  What are the drawbacks?

I primarily use my Sightscope in the car, outside, watching TV, at the movies or at a ballgame.  I tend to use my prescription lenses at work. When I walk, I usually have the bioptic lenses flipped down so I can quickly lower my head to better see an object with the magnifier, as opposed to only looking through my prescription lenses.  Obviously, the magnifiers reduce my peripheral vision, but it may allow me to see or identify an object that I couldn’t identify without the bioptics. There is a tradeoff.

With the bioptic lenses flipped down, my glasses tend to slip down my nose, but this is a minor inconvenience to have the visual assistance it provides me. Looking through the bioptics does not correct my vision, but allows me to potentially see objects I couldn’t see before and, depending on how close I am, actually see details!

I am looking through my magnifiers with a severely decreased acuity, so while objects are magnified, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I will be able to automatically identify the object, but I will certainly have a much better chance of seeing it.

With my condition, I notice that there is a much sharper view from the glasses, but sometimes, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing.  Sharper is sometimes like rich chocolate; chocolate is good, but too rich can become problematic!

8. Do you wear your SightScope in public? How often do people ask you about it?  Do you have any advice to a young child that could benefit from using a bioptic in a classroom setting, but might be embarrassed to use it because of what other kids might think?

I do wear my bioptics in public, but it does take some self-assurance and support.  People have asked me what they are, and I respond simply by saying, “they allow me to see.”

Truthfully, I’ve been worried about what other people think of my assistive tools my entire life and positive self-talk (weighing pros vs. cons of wearing the glasses, channeling confidence, and telling myself, “people are too wrapped up in themselves to care very much about my assistive tools and how they make me look”) is all I can do to minimize this anxiety.  Looking back on my childhood, I now realize that once my classmates saw my assistive tools, made their comments or asked questions, they no longer paid much attention.

9. Cost can be an issue for some when deciding whether or not to purchase a bioptic; can you give a couple reasons why bioptics were worth the money for you and any advice to someone that is on the fence about purchasing bioptics from their low vision specialist?

My bioptic lenses were provided to me by the state of CT.  Because I qualify for state services for the visually impaired, my low vision specialist wrote a recommendation letter documenting the drastic increase in my acuity when I tried the bioptics on during an office visit and I received them.  I have no idea how much they cost; I just remain very grateful that my Sightscope bioptics were provided to me.

If I were to purchase the bioptics, I would make sure I found a physical outlet so I could try them first!  Visit your low vision specialist, a low vision clinic or try to find someone who owns a pair to demonstrate and test out.  Not all assistive technology will work for everyone (like E-sight and NuEyes).

Image of Patrick Raymond and his low vision specialist
Patrick Raymond with his low vision specialist, Dr. Christopher Inclima.

Veteran with Macular Degeneration Receives Autofocusing Bioptic

Mr. Bill Feimster, drafted just as he turned 18 to serve in the Philippines during WWII, came back to North Carolina to marry the woman he called “the most beautiful girl in the world.” He became a mechanic and was happily married for 54 years. “He could fix anything and wanted to know how everything worked.”

Unfortunately, Bill developed macular degeneration losing most of the vision in his right eye.  With modern medical treatment he has been able to keep enough vision in his left eye that low vision aids helped him to stay engaged, happy and still fixing things.

But with a bad neck, and head and hand tremors it was difficult for him to hold and focus binoculars so he could watch his grandchildren play baseball—one of his most favorite activities.

With his low vision specialist, Dr. Patti Fuhr, Chief of the Advanced Low Vision Section at the Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, NC , Bill explored new options to meet his special needs.

Dr. Fuhr prescribed a brand new device designed for the visually impaired called the Ocutech Falcon Autofocus bioptic. With this new telescope, Mr. Feimster was able to see four times further away, close enough to his normal vision that he was able to see his family from across the room. And, because it’s mounted on eyeglasses and autofocuses, he doesn’t have the challenge of having to hold it or manually focus the device to see at different distances.

“It’s just like upside down bifocals,” he said. With the Falcon, wherever Bill looks the image is clear right away, hands-free, just like normal vision. Being the mechanic that he is, he even had an opportunity, using his magnifier, to look inside a sample Falcon to see how it worked.

And, now, thanks to Dr. Fuhr and the Salisbury VA Advanced Low Vision Service, and his new Falcon low vision telescope, Bill is looking forward to next year’s baseball season to begin.

Floridians with low vision can benefit from bioptics even if they cannot use them to drive.

Image of palm trees in florida with title, Visually Impaired and Living in Florida

There is more to bioptics than just driving in Florida

Losing one’s drivers license or never being eligible for one because of reduced vision is undoubtedly a bummer.  There are ways to get around without driving yourself, but the independence and enhanced quality of life one gains from being able to drive (not to mention the ‘right of passage’ of a driver’s license for teenagers) is hard to argue. Most US states have adopted bioptic driving laws, allowing individuals with a certain acuity and degree of peripheral vision to be eligible for full or restricted license privileges.

Unfortunately, Florida is one of the few remaining states in the Union that does not allow visually impaired individuals to obtain a driver’s license while wearing a bioptic telescope.

What is the current licensing requirements in Florida?

Date last verified: August 2018

  • Bioptic driving is NOT allowed
  • Bioptic is NOT permitted to meet visual standards
  • Minimum visual acuity of 20/70 for an unrestricted license
  • Minimum visual acuity of 20/40 if one eye is 20/200 or worse
  • Field of view must be at least 130 degrees

So, if I cannot use a bioptic to drive in Florida, why should I use one?

There’s more to life than driving… really!  And bioptic telescopes for low vision can be part of making your life experiences as positive and enjoyable as you choose to make it.  Can’t see your friends, family or co-workers from across the room? Can’t read the sports score on TV? Can’t read the menu on the wall of the restaurant?  Can’t read the computer screen or play music or card games.  Can’t see well enough to play shuffleboard or bowl? Don’t want to go out because you can’t recognize people at a distance? Feel left out because you don’t feel visually connected?  Bioptics can help in all these ways and even more.

Bioptic telescopes can help individuals with 20/200 see 20/40, and maybe even better.  You’ll see virtually as well as a normally-sighted person.  Granted, they look a little weird (most folks think they’re cool once they realize how much better they can see with them… promise!), and there a few things you’ll have to learn.  Bioptics have changed the lives of the visually impaired whether they are in their teens, twenties, or even nineties!  You owe it to yourself to check them out. They may not get you behind the wheel in Florida, but at least they will help you see where you’re going and when you get there!

For more information on Ocutech bioptics visit our webpage at www.ocutech.com or email info@ocutech.com for a referral.

Ocutech Bioptics Can Help You Drive Again – Just Ask Michelle!

We were so pleased when Michelle agreed to share a bit of her vision story with us and you! She is such an amazing person and we just love her positive attitude!

Michelle C. Bush– I’m often asked about my vision, how I’m able to drive and about my “telescopes” (aka. bioptic glasses). Here is the short version…

In August of 2003 (while pregnant with my son Micah), I was diagnosed with Pseudotumor Cerebri/Intracranial Hypertension. Basically, spinal fluid leaks into my brain and causes too much pressure (severe headaches that make migraines feel like a walk in the park). The fluid damaged my optic nerves and macula, leaving me legally blind .

Regular glasses and contact lenses are not able to correct the type of damage that I have and for the first two years after being diagnosed with PTC, I couldn’t drive. This was such a frustrating experience, particularly having a newborn baby at home and having lost the freedom to drive. Definitely a luxary that we take for granted!!

Thankfully, my vision finally improved enough (20/180) that bioptics could help me drive again! I am so thankful for the freedom that Ocutech bioptics have provided for me.