“They’re an Eye-Changer, Quite Literally”— How an Ocutech Bioptic changed the life of a new father.

When Luis Angel Aponte’s daughter was born, there were new realities he and his wife knew they would have to face together. Most of them are common to all new parents, but some were especially relevant to Angel and his wife, Nicole.

Born with a visual impairment due to cataracts and nystagmus, Luis knew that sitting behind the wheel of a car, driving his daughter to school, or play-dates, or family trips would not be part of his parental ‘job-description.’ “Sadly, driving because of my low vision was never something I had ever imagined myself doing,” he said. Many of what he saw as his ‘father-daughter’ roles would be the responsibility of his incredibly loving and supportive wife.

But with special telescopic glasses designed for individuals with visual impairments, Luis’ world has never been the same. Luis had put his faith into action and began to research what new technology was available to support his vision issues. In only a few Google searches he discovered Ocutech bioptic telescopes which held the potential for him to not only see better but also possibly make him eligible to get a driver’s license. He immediately contacted his low vision specialist, Dr. Andrea Zimmerman, at the Lighthouse-Guild Low Vision Clinic in New York City, and what happened next has changed his life!

Dr. Zimmerman prescribed an Ocutech VES-Explorer Bioptic telescope, a miniature telescope attached to eyeglasses that magnifies the image, just like binoculars, and which improved Luis’ vision to almost 20/20 when looking through it. “My new bioptics are so amazing, it can’t be put into words— they’re an eye changer, quite literally,” Luis passionately shared. “To everyone who has a visual impairment, I hope they know that they just have to push through, to stay positive, and to remind themselves there may be a way– that way, for me, was Ocutech.”

“A bioptic can be so impactful for individuals with vision impairments. Seeing at a distance can be important both emotionally as well as for one’s independence” said Dr. Zimmerman. “We’re thrilled that they have been so helpful for Luis.”

“Going from having no driver’s license because I could hardly see, to having almost 20/20 vision with my bioptic is huge,” Luis said. “When we realized that getting my driver’s license was possible, my wife and I looked at each other and thought… Not only would I actually be able to drive my daughter one day, but I’d also be able to teach her how to drive. That’s a reality I never thought I’d have. It brings a smile to my face. My Ocutech is what made it happen.”

Until now, not being able to see much at all made him need to learn how to cope with those challenges. He had to accept needing extra help from his teachers in school, needing his friends to describe what was going on around him, and leaning on his wife to support him through his almost daily frustrations with his eyesight. But now Luis cannot believe how much more of the world he can see with his bioptic– including his baby daughter Delilah’s smiles and giggles, and seeing everything going on in the park where she plays. “I feel so much more connected to her and my wife than I ever thought possible,” he said.

“I’ll never forget how my wife once stood across the street and asked if I could see her and I said no— and how she promised me she’ll do everything she could to show me her world,” Luis fondly remembered. “Now, with these amazing glasses, I can see my wife across the street— I can see her world— and that feeling is just indescribable… and exciting.” It also means being able to drive Delilah, his family and himself anywhere they want to go: his new freedom and new level of independence, he says, is exhilarating.

For more information about Ocutech bioptics and to determine whether you might be a promising candidate visit www.ocutech.com. Complete the self-assessment form at https://ocutech.com/self-assessment-form/ to receive a reply from Ocutech’s experts about your special situation.

“She Became So Much More Curious”— How a visually impaired 15 Year Old’s World Suddenly Changed

Cheryl Jones didn’t know how to respond after taking her daughter, Leah, to yet another eye doctor to see why her daughter had so much difficulty seeing clearly, when the doctor told them “she’s probably pretending to have such bad eyesight so she can wear cool glasses like her friends.”

Her daughter— who was in fourth grade at the time— couldn’t believe it either.  She’d been struggling since kindergarten to see the board and her friends in her classroom. She had already been to eight specialists by the time of this visit and none could explain why she couldn’t see the TV if she sat on the couch with her parents. She always had to sit right up in front of the screen to be able to see anything.

It was a year later, at age ten, that Leah’s diagnosis was finally made. Upon walking into the room, the doctor saw Leah try to read the eye chart while tilting her head to the side. “He knew straight away what my daughter had—Stargardt’s disease”—a juvenile form of macular degeneration— “It was such a relief to finally know what was going on,” Ms. Jones recalled, thoughtfully.

Stargardt’s disease is a rare genetic eye disease that affects the macula, the central part of the retina that normally provides our sharp 20/20 vision. The disorder impacts about one in 10,000 people. Early on it may be very difficult for eye doctors to diagnose Stargardt’s Disease because the macula can appear normal for many years, prompting some doctors to think that the child might be fibbing. But eventually the macula does begin to change and the diagnosis can be made.

Understanding Stargardt’s Disease

Once her Stargardt’s diagnosis was made, Leah was introduced into the world of low vision aids—special equipment and software that enlarges print to make it easier to see and access.  But not that it was easy! Leah could be found in school rolling her heavy backpack, full of large print materials and bulky equipment like her electronic screen magnifier called a CCTV that has a special camera used to enlarge print. In each classroom, Leah would have to wheel her bag in and set up her equipment, and when she got to high school, it meant doing it sometimes eight times a day. And to get around school with her heavy rolling backpack, she’d have to use the school’s elevator requiring special permissions, forms and signatures— a parent’s nightmare.

“Her school librarian was moved to help us by adding a large print section in the library for Leah. Though it took a long time for Leah to finish reading each book, we felt that her gesture was so kind and sympathetic— it’s just one of many examples of how we’ve learned to navigate the challenges that Leah faces day to day,” her mother explained.

But about one month ago, Leah’s navigation through her visual impairment took a spectacular turn.

Leah was referred to Dr. Sonya Braudway, an optometric physician who specializes in low vision rehabilitation in Lakeland, Florida. Working at the Center for Retina and Macular Disease, Dr. Braudway demonstrated a pair of special eyeglasses designed for the visually impaired. These low vision aids, called Ocutech Bioptics, contain miniature telescopes that work like binoculars. In mere moments, Leah felt the ground shift under her feet.

“I’ve never seen her read an eye chart so fast,” Ms. Jones said, smiling. “Suddenly, my mother, my daughter and I all started crying, realizing the miracle that had just happened.”

Leah, whose vision is normally 20/400, can now see 20/60 with her special Ocutech bioptics— a reality made possible by her grandparents who purchased them for Leah when they saw how happy they made her.

“It’s like getting to watch her grow up again overnight,” her mother said. “She’s become so much more curious about the world, because now she can see it, just like any normal kid.”  And since her bioptic is focusable, she can use them to see better at any distance she needs including the TV, her computer, her Nintendo, as well as her art projects.

Low Vision Rehabilitation

Dr. Braudway has prescribed Ocutech bioptics for children many times before. “It’s one of the most rewarding things I can do,” she said.  “The impact that bioptics can have for children can be so profound. It helps them come out of their shell, and the smiles we see when they first begin to use it—oh my! It’s a shame that more families don’t know about this technology.  It can be so pivotal in their children’s lives.”

These days, Leah, now 15, attends Excel Christian Academy in Lakeland, Florida. She’s happily adjusting to her new life as an Ocutech user.  Whether it’s joining her classmates in the hallway instead of riding alone in the elevator, sitting between her parents on the couch to watch television together, finally getting to read signs, go shopping, see her friends and family— and even enjoying trips to the zoo where for the first time she can really see the sloths and giraffes in their pens— Leah is excited about what it all means for her future.

“Now we’ll find her looking at our old wedding photos hanging on the wall, staring at the wedding dress, the flowers and our family’s faces— seeing them all with quite literally a fresh pair of eyes,” Leah’s mother shared. “It’s amazing what a difference these glasses have made for her in such a short period of time; I’m not worrying so much anymore— she’s so much more independent and happy… [the way] every girl her age deserves to be.”

Ocutech bioptics are prescribed by Low Vision Specialists throughout the world.  To learn more about Ocutech bioptics, and whether you, your child, or a loved one might be a candidate contact Ocutech at info@ocutech.com.

 

 

When should I be considering an Ocutech Bioptic for my patient?

I’m frequently asked what makes me consider a bioptic for an individual patient. So, I’ve written a short blog post to describe my approach. There are several factors to explore when considering the appropriateness of an Ocutech bioptic for an individual. Here’s a list of factors you may choose to consider.

1. Vision

a. BCVA in the better-seeing eye (hopefully the dominant eye) is 20/300 or better

b. Field of view of at least 40 degrees diameter with regular glasses if used

c. Absence of hemianopsia

2. The prospective patient seeks to improve their distance and/or midrange vision for activities that might include:

a. Independent travel

b. Classroom

c. Signage

d. Shopping

e. Social engagement

f. Table/desk activities

g. Computer screens

h. Driving

i. Music

j. Theater/movies

k. Museums/galleries

l. Hiking

m. Gardening

3. They have promising manual dexterity and cognitive status

4. They have a need for hands-free visual support

5. Focusing options are based upon working distance considerations

a. Fixed focus (perhaps with reading caps) or Manual focus if their needs are at fixed distances  with minimal need to refocus the device

b. Autofocusing bioptic if they have a range of varying and continuous working distances

Meet Aaron Paulk, a visually impaired competitive surfer.

His Ocutech bioptic low vision aid helped make it happen!

“My first dream as a kid was to be a US Navy Seal.” Says Aaron Paulk. “I enlisted in the Navy halfway through my senior year in high school in Indiana. Things were going along fine until my physical in boot camp found that I was losing vision due to a juvenile type of macular degeneration called Stargardt’s disease. That totally derailed all my plans as I was no longer eligible to join the navy or any service. I lost my dream, my vision, and my motivation at age 17 all at once. It was one of my hardest periods emotionally.”

“I lost my license and my independence,” he says. “And then I found Dr. Laura Windsor, my low vision specialist. She prescribed an Ocutech bioptic telescope—a miniature telescope built into eyeglasses that provide me with near-normal vision–and my life changed forever. It allowed me to follow my second dream, to be a surfer living in Hawaii, and I just placed third in the 2021 World Parasurfing Championships held in California December 7-11.

“Gosh where do I start with how my Ocutech bioptic has changed my life?” he says.  “I have been able to regain my independence and drive, which has helped me train harder and harder to now be one of the best visually impaired competitive surfers in the world.  Before Ocutech I couldn’t even see the surf in the ocean before I got in, but now I can check the surf and watch it through my Ocutech and get an idea of how the waves are breaking.  I wear my Ocutech at all competition events to have the ability to watch the competition and prepare for my heats.” 

Aaron wants to share his enthusiasm for using his bioptic with others. “The impact of my Ocutech has been so dramatic for me,” he says, “and I’m eager to do what I can to help inspire other people with visual impairments to adopt such great technology to help them follow their passions and achieve their dreams.”

“If It Weren’t for Ocutech, I Wouldn’t Have My License”— Julius Frierson is Seeing New Possibilities

Julius Frierson shuts the door to his car, parked on a street in the rolling hills of Ventura, California, with a grin— remembering how the license in his wallet and the ability to improve his vision was once just an impossible dream.

“I was considered legally blind ever since I was nine months old,” Frierson, a behavioral technician, explained. “Things were always hard for me— I was the kid who never saw the board in school, who needed special textbooks enlarged, the whole nine yards.”

Julius was born with macular scarring, a formation of fibrous tissue in place of the normal retinal tissue on the macula area, the central part of the retina, which normally provides our20/20 sharp vision. His condition is not very different than loss of central vision from disorders like macular degeneration or Stargardt’s disease. Julius’ reduced visual acuity made it hard for him to read print, see the blackboard, or see his friends’ and family’s faces. He was told that glasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery could not correct his condition.

Frierson recalls one mentor in his life who inspired him to keep his chin up, teaching him how to cross the roads even when his eyes couldn’t see the lights change.

For years, teachers at Frierson’s school would often follow Frierson home after school, ensuring the teen was walking home safely. He’d hear the cars whiz past and think about what it would be like to drive one— to see the road and feel the sense of independence he always wanted.

Many years later, that dream became a reality.

One day Frierson’s optometrist at Kaiser recommended special glasses called bioptics made by Ocutech.  Bioptics are miniature telescopes that are attached to regular eyeglasses. Just like binoculars, they make images larger and as a result easier to see. Ocutech bioptics enable the user to see much farther away. For example, if an individual can only see clearly to 5 feet away, a 4x-power Ocutech bioptic will let them see 20 feet away.

Frierson’s doctor fitted him for the VES-Sport-II, which is one of a range of Ocutech bioptic telescopes specially designed for the visually impaired to enhance a patient’s vision. They are focusable, so he could use them to see better at any distance he needed including the TV and the computer.

Of course, these types of special glasses aren’t cheap. But Frierson was determined to raise the funds to obtain hisOcutech bioptic and benefit from its life-changing potential.  He let his loved ones know of this opportunity to restart his lifeif he could onlyfindthe money to purchase the glasses.

It was then that his girlfriend set up a GoFundMe page, sharing Frierson’s intense and beautiful story. In just 24 hours, the money was raised to cover the cost of the glasses! The amazing support he receivednow unlocks memories Frierson holds dear.

Ocutech literally allowed me to see two to three times better [than anything I had used before],” Frierson shared, passionately. “As of now, my regular vision is 20/200 but with myOcutech, my vision is 20/40— and that is a drastic difference.”

It’s only been a little less than a year, but Frierson finds his future is suddenly clearer, in more ways than one.

With his Ocutech bioptics, Frierson can see the world the way his friends and family have always experienced it. He sees the scoreboard of sports games playing on the screens in his favorite restaurant. He reads the menu without help,and he feels the firm grip of the stirring wheel as he can now independently drive.

Frierson goes to concerts and doesn’t just hear the artist perform, butsees them—colors and all.

The license in his pocket, the car parked on his street, the ability to cross the road now with no one having to follow:it’s these little things—seemingly ordinary things—that ignite extraordinary joy for this Ocutech user.

“[It comes down to this],” Frierson said, smiling. “I simply cannot live without these glasses.”

To learn more about Ocutech bioptics, to determine if you might be a candidate for Ocutech bioptics, or if you or a loved are seeking a referral for a low vision specialist, contact Ocutech today at www.ocutech.com.

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.