Ocutech’s Professional Consultant Dr. Gary Asano receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Ocutech is thrilled to have as our West-Coast Professional Consultant an individual as expert and as devoted to his profession and to low vision care as is Dr. Gary Asano. 

The Marshall B Ketchum University School of Optometry (MBKU) Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes alumni who have achieved professional prominence in their field and are engaged in the community furthering the goals of MBKU and their profession. MBKU is proud to announce the recipient of the 2021 Distinguished Alumni award is Dr. Gary Asano, O.D., ’78.

Dr. Gary Asano, OD, graduated from Southern California College of Optometry in 1978 with a desire to specialize in serving Low Vision patients. He went on to become a tireless advocate for these patients, an acknowledged expert in the specialty, and a respected lecturer and educator. A longtime member of the American Optometric Association, the California Optometric Association, and numerous other professional groups, Dr. Asano was awarded the AOA Vision
Rehabilitation Committee-Jerry Davidoff Memorial Low Vision Care Service Award in June 2019 and the Envision Ocular LV Award in August 2018. One of Dr. Asano’s most important contributions to the profession of optometry is his founding of the Low Vision Rehabilitation Section in California (LVRS), an enormous undertaking that required approval by the COA House of Delegates. Dr. Asano has over 25 years of private practice experience, in addition to teaching at SCCO, numerous professional conferences, publications, research, and lectures. Dr. Asano has been an annual benefactor to SCCO and the Low Vision program for over 29 years.

Meet Mack!

Young man wearing Ocutech biopticsMack Despard is our new intern here at Ocutech and we are very excited to have him on the team. Visually impaired himself, Mack provides personal insight to living with low vision.  Mack uses his Ocutech bioptics every day and without them, would not be able to drive. Because low vision devices can dramatically improve quality of life and independence, Mack is eager to share his stories and experiences in hopes of helping others living with vision loss.

Mack’s Personal Testimony

The following was written by Mack Despard:

Ocular albinism has been one of the most wonderful contradictions of my life. Living with 20/80 vision has been challenging because it has forced me to overcome various “setbacks” with more effort and tenacity than those around me. As I realize is true for most children, I never considered the true meaning of regularity or exceptionalism, at least not in the way adults understand those words. From a young kid trying to get picked on the 2nd-grade recess basketball team to frantically notating structural organic chemistry rules in the front row of my lecture hall, my visual impairment has played a role in nearly every aspect of my life.

Without OA, I may never have steered away from ball-centered sports in favor of track and field, which would have meant not coming to know one of the most influential role models in my life: my track coach Cameron Starr. Without OA, I may not have sat in the front row of so many classrooms, away from my friends, with my focused attention to the teacher directly in front of me. My character, confidence, relationships, and work ethic are all parts of me that would not be the same without OA.

Overcoming obstacles is what makes a person strong, and how they overcome those obstacles is what makes a person resilient. I simply would not be the confident, independent, resourceful, and resilient person I am today without the challenges of OA or the incredible help from Ocutech.

Briarna Dobson’s Journey with Stargardt’s Disease

Ocutech would like to thank Briarna for sharing her story with Stargardt’s and how she gained her independence back with dedicated parents, doctors and Ocutech bioptics!

I always get asked, “What do you mean you’re blind, you look so normal?” Most people find it difficult to comprehend that you can look normal but be partially sighted. We are taught there are three types of vision: perfect vision, vision that requires correction with glasses or completely blind with no vision. So, I do understand the confusion some have when I try to explain my vision.

Losing My Vision

I was born fully sighted and had no issues with my vision. When I was 8 years old, I started struggling to see the board. We went to the Optometrist and I got glasses for reading and seeing the board. I went back yearly for routine check-ups and it wasn’t till I was 13 years old that the optometrist found something at the back of my eye (my retina), we then went to the ophthalmologist in Tauranga, where they referred us for more testing at the Retina Specialist clinic in Auckland.  This was when we were told…I had Stargardts.

My parents were devastated. They saw all the obstacles I would be coming up against, would I be able to finish mainstream education? Would I be able to drive? Would I be happy? I, however, didn’t have the foresight to think of any of that. I could see alright for the moment and that was all that mattered. A few months later I understood completely how my parents felt that day.

What is Stargardt’s?

Stargardt’s Disease is a genetic juvenile condition. It affects the macula in the retina. This is responsible for colour and central vision. This results in the whole image not being sent through the optic nerve to the brain. My brain then fills in the missing pieces and compensates with my peripheral vision. The loss of vision starts with puberty and gradually continues to progress through the teens and adult years. As if puberty wasn’t difficult enough.

Losing My Sight and Independence

Growing up I was a very active kid, I got involved in all the sports, netball, volleyball, water polo, hockey, and dance, to name a few. With the loss of my vision that was taken away from me, I no longer was able to play those sports or see the choreographer in dance training. Then it came to the age where I was faced with “you won’t be able to drive.” My friends were getting their driver’s licenses; they were independent and could go off when they pleased. They could get around and did not have to rely on anyone else.  These days were dark for me, it just didn’t seem fair as I could not be independent and have the freedom that comes with it.

My parents are continuously working to find the best tools possible for me to live life as a normal teenager. They are always researching Stargardt’s Disease and keeping up to date with everything and anything that could benefit my condition and my life.  My Dad came across a video on “stuff.com” of a guy who was visually impaired that was granted his license with a special pair of glasses, he was also from New Zealand and we immediately got in touch with him. He explained how he got the glasses and who to contact.

Finding Hope and Learning I Could Drive!

My Dad got in touch with Peter Neuhauser and Anna Megaffin from the Hamilton Branch Bell Neuhauser & (Matthews) Optometrist. Peter sounded so hopeful and it was really promising.  Although I did not want to get my hopes up too high. 

We went to Hamilton and they ran a few tests. We were then given the best news of our lives – with these glasses (Ocutech VES-Sport II) I could obtain my driver’s license!

Photo of the VES-Sport II Bioptic Telescope
The Ocutech VES Sport-II

The glasses are ordered from America, so I started to study the road code like crazy and after a few months of waiting, the glasses arrived and the very next day, I took my learner’s license test in 13 minutes and got 35/35 correct.  I now have my very own licence.

It really was the best day and feeling ever!

The past 4 years have been the longest and hardest years of my life, but after meeting Peter, Anna, and the team, my life has completely changed in the best way ever and my dreams have come true!

I am so grateful for all they have done and my Ocutech Bioptics!

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.

Living Life Karina Fuentes Style: There is Always A Way of Helping.

Quick Note from the Author:
Wow! Let me just say that this is one of those stories that stuck with me; a constant reminder that the only things in life that we have control over are the choices we make for ourselves. After reading Karina Fuentes’ response to our Personal Story Questionnaire, I couldn’t wait to share her story with as many people as possible! So without further ado….

“The whole migration thing is such a struggle, it’s like we were back to zero.”

Karina was born with a visual impairment because she has Albinism. Until recently, the 22 year old lived in the Philippines where she was prescribed the Ocutech VES-Sport bioptic by her low vision specialist, Dr. Carmela Ongsiako. After finishing school two years ago, Karina and her mother migrated from the Philippines to the United States. “My Ocutech bioptic has been such a great help to me at school when I was studying.” In her home country, Karina used her bioptic and excelled in school. She attended the University of the East where she graduated with honors (Cum Laude) and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. In addition to being smart and driven, Karina is a talented and passionate writer – she has an online presence where many of her poems, song lyrics and short stories have been published. Oh, and did we mention that she can sing too? Karina is an avid choir member and featured soloist. 

Karina talking about her time at the Braille Institute of America:

“I have learned a lot from that wonderful community” After movng to the United States, Karina was an intern at the Braille Institute of America. Currently, she works as a full-time receptionist and uses her bioptic daily for clerical tasks that require a significant amount of reading. Karina prefers her Ocutech bioptics over other devices such as hand-held magnifiers because of the versatility and efficiency that comes with the ability to seamlessly move between viewing an object up-close and at a distance, such as reading a book and then looking up at a computer screen. “I do a lot of clerical tasks that require me to read a lot and my device Ocutech Sport has been a really big help for me to do my job well.” 

Karina talking about the lessons she’s learned:

  • One very important thing that I have learned recently, is that you have to keep on looking for ways to innovate or improve yourself and your capabilities, learning and growing should NEVER stop.
  • Even if you have limitations – such as someone who is visually impaired, you can still do so many things that those without physical impairments can do. There are many resources available, people who care and people willing to help.
  • If you have a disability, you are also capable of helping others who need assistance. When people see a visually impaired person striving to be better and do better, it is a source of inspiration in and of itself. And that is another way of helping. 🙂

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.