“It was a different life then”— says Bill McKenzie on his world without his Ocutech Bioptics

For Bill McKenzie, the old proverb “big things come in small packages” could not ring truer. It began when he received his first Ocutech bioptic telescope low vision aid. It was then that he could again enjoy the little things that he used to take for granted like watching TV or shopping— or the big things like watching his grandchildren play sports or just being able to see their eyes when he talked with them.

“My Ocutech bioptics reopened my life for me,” Bill reminisced. “Without them, I was hiding in my own little world where I didn’t say ‘hi’ to people because I couldn’t recognize them—I felt so unconnected… it was a difficult time in my life.”

In 1995, Bill was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration, a condition that reduces central vision making it difficult for him to read print, see TV and signs at a distance and recognize people’s faces. By 2014, he found that he couldn’t see well enough to drive anymore, use a tool in his shop, or read with pleasure the way he used to.

To help combat his reduced vision, he installed 28-inch monitors to his computers and bought a 65 inch TV. He would insure that he had magnifying glasses throughout the house and he even purchased a microscope to help him look at print material. “The bigger the better,” he said.

And, he finally realized the one important thing he was trying to avoid: he needed help. “I’ve always been a do-it-yourselfer. It was hard for me to accept!”

On his next visit to his retina eye doctor where he shared his frustrations for the first time, he was referred to a low vision specialist.  “They talked to me about what I wanted to be able to see and do. No one had asked me those types of questions before. Just, ‘how are you seeing today? Crummy I would reply!” It was at his low vision appointment where Bill expressed his frustration about not seeing well at a distance, that Bill was shown an Ocutech bioptic, special glasses with miniature telescopes mounted in the top. He was amazed that he could see so clearly again, but that was on the eyechart! He was eager to see if they would help in the real world.

Bill now owns two Ocutech bioptics–the SightScope and the Falcon. The SightScope, a Galilean telescope design for both eyes works just like a pair of binoculars. They make things twice as big, and they let him see twice as far away. And, they can be used up close with special extra reading caps that he can attach to the front.  But his Falcon, the world’s only autofocusing bioptic, gives him the most natural magnified vision because wherever he looks it’s clear immediately just like normal vision.  They’re much stronger power than his lower power SightScope and he can see even further away.  “The field of view is a little narrow like the mirrors in a car, he noted, and that took some getting used to, but once I did it they are a pleasure to use,” he said.

“Bioptic eyeglasses have added a new dimension to people with low vision,” Bill shared, “it’s a shame that so few people know about them. If it’s going to pick up groceries, visiting my five children or seeing my 12 grandchildren at their birthdays, BBQ’s— you name it— I now get to have those experiences back. The bioptics certainly bring things back to my life.”

And something he never expected, Bill is on the road again, driving his car, and appreciating not only his freedom and independence but also his physical and mental health. He takes the car to go to physical therapy (due to the knee replacement he recently had) as well as check-ups with his cardiologist. Beyond these appointments, Bill likes taking the time to drive and get his curbside grocery pickup or visit his family. “I’d go insane if I just had to sit inside all day,” he said.

Yet Bill’s greatest joy these days is getting to see his grandchild play soccer. He goes to the game a proud grandparent who can finally see the scoreboard and his grandchild run across the field. To be able to watch, see and experience the game like everyone else means everything to Bill.

“How do you explain it? When you have vision that deteriorates slowly, you slowly stop recognizing things, or faces of people who you always once saw,” Bill explained, reflecting. “And then suddenly, you have these lenses that can let you see like 20-50 feet away again… it’s surreal. Your world expands— and you get some important parts of your life back again.”

For more information about Ocutech bioptics, to determine whether you might be a promising candidate, or to request a referral to an Ocutech Low Vision prescriber visit www.ocutech.com. Complete the no obligation self-assessment questionnaire at https://ocutech.com/self-assessment-form/ to receive a reply from Ocutech’s experts about your specific vision options.

 

“It honestly felt like a dream”— How an Avid Explorer Got to See the World Again

Just six months ago, Alan Vosko experienced what he described as “as close to a miracle as I could ever imagine.” After losing all of his sight in his left eye and much of it in his right, he was again able to see the sunsets and palms trees and his niece’s hockey games– blessings he never thought he’d enjoy again.

Alan’s journey with vision loss is a tale of resilience and strength. It all started in his thirties when he walked into a branch causing an injury-induced (traumatic) cataract. He received cataract surgery in that eye, only to develop a cataract in his other eye soon after. Many surgeries later, both of his corneas (the clear window at the front of the eye) began to degrade- making him feel as if he was looking through a frosted window. On another ‘heavy’ day, Alan learned that he had pancreatic cancer. Thankfully now cancer-free after chemotherapy and radiation, Alan was now blind in his left eye and could only see 20/100 with his right.

“I lost a lot of my independence like not being able to drive that was pretty crushing,” Alan shared, poignantly. “It affects everything I do and the biggest was not being able to travel like I used to. I used to snorkel, bike, or hike and explore the national parks or travel in Europe. My wife Sue and I loved to immerse ourselves in the cultures we visited. For two years I had to either not live my life in the way I once could, or just curl up in a ball.”

But Alan and Sue never gave up searching for a solution to regain his sight. They went from doctor to doctor and he underwent six eye operations! But it wasn’t until he was referred to a low vision specialist— an optometrist specializing in treating the visually impaired, that his vision and his life began a new chapter.

“I’ll never forget the moment I was tested and fitted for the Ocutech bioptics glasses— everything was instantly in focus, I could see again. After two years of feeling so blind, it honestly felt like a dream had come true,” Alan reminisced.

Alan was prescribed special bioptic telescope eyeglasses designed for individuals with visual impairments.  Alan’s version, called the Ocutech VES Explorer, includes a miniature telescope that magnifies what the person sees, just like binoculars.  Alan feels a kinship to his new bioptic as they let him travel and explore the world again just like he used to. “They’ve given me my life back” he says. His bioptic glasses give Alan close to 20/20 vision and although he can’t prove it, he truly feels as though the bioptics have “actually improved and strengthened” his overall vision.

Since receiving his bioptic, Alan says he has regained much of his independence. He is even driving again as Michigan is one of 47 states that allow visually impaired individuals to obtain a special driver’s license for bioptic users. To get his bioptic license he had to comply with the state’s special requirements and testing but he said it was all worth it.

And he can go back to being the avid fisherman he once was. One of his favorite stories is catching the last of his “bucket-list fish” because he was actually able to see it jump out of the water with his bioptic. He can again watch his niece play hockey, “she’s going to be a superstar one day,” he grinned. “I used to have to ask my wife to narrate the game for me, but now I can see it all myself- see her master that puck— and that’s all I can really ask for.”

Alan is also traveling the world again and is seeing it for himself. He recalls that for the two years when he was so severely visually impaired, he would go to Hawaii or Florida with Sue and wonder what the sunset actually looked like, having only memories of what he could no longer see. They recently went back to their favorite spot to watch the sunset, and there it was: he could see the pink hues and bright colors, just as wonderful as ever!

“My Ocutech bioptic has been my first miracle, but the second is that it has allowed me to live the life I want to live again,” Alan said, smiling. “People used to always ask me, ‘can you see that?’ and the best thing is now I can finally tell them ‘yes! I can’.”

For more information about Ocutech bioptics consult your low vision specialist or visit www.ocutech.com. Ocutech offers a self-assessment questionnaire that will be reviewed by their experts and which provides a personal report about the likelihood that you might be a successful candidate for an Ocutech bioptic.  Visit https://ocutech.com/self-assessment-form/ to complete it.

 

 

“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.

 

 

Battery Belt Clips Now Available


When we were getting ready to release the Falcon in late 2018, we tested many different batteries to find one with stable power output (they’re not all of equivalent quality) and that had a belt clip to make them easier to wear. We finally found one that we liked and ordered a sufficient quantity for our expected sales for the first two years. The vendor promised us that the battery would not be discontinued and that we would always be able to order more. 

We are pleased to say that orders for the Falcon exceeded our expectations and we ran out of batteries sooner than we had planned. And, as you might have expected, the battery we selected was no longer available. We did find a dependable replacement battery (who knows how long this one will be available), but it came without a belt clip. 

So, now we have finally found a self-adhesive belt clip that can be attached to the battery. All future Falcon orders will include an unattached belt clip that you or your patient can apply themselves (easy instructions included). If you have patients using batteries without a clip who would like one, please let us know and we’ll mail one to them directly to save you the effort. Just specify whether they would prefer a white or black color.

Here’s an Amazon link to the velcro tabs we use, though they can be found on other sites and often also in crafts and fabric stores.  Click here->

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.”

 

 

Bioptic Driving: The challenge of dealing with the state’s driver licensing office.

One of the great motivators for individuals to pursue bioptics is that they may become eligible to drive. 

In 2013 the State of North Carolina, my home state, passed its bioptic driving law that would enable some visually impaired individuals to be eligible to obtain a driver’s license.  Soon afterward I was invited to make a presentation to the state’s DMV Medical Board to explain what bioptics were all about and how they are used for driving (seems kind of backwards, doesn’t it?).  While I had expected to give a 30 minute presentation, the meeting lasted 2 hours and discussions explored a range of subjects related to vision and driving.

Soon after, I was invited to join the DMV Medical Review Board where I became involved not only in reviewing and ruling on DMV actions regarding individuals who were deemed inappropriate for licensure based upon a range of issues including vision, diabetic control, seizure disorders, substance abuse, cognitive status, behavioral issues and high accident rate.  In fact, the majority of the cases I was involved in reviewing were not vision-related at all.

In addition to my role examining the cases of individual drivers, I became involved in reviewing and revising the DMV’s vision guidelines including developing the process for licensing bioptic drivers. After several months of exploring the range of options, including meetings with stakeholders, we developed the methods and process that would be used for evaluating drivers. These were boiled down to be as easily administrable as possible. But there are 100 counties in the state, and many hundreds of DMV examiners, and more often than not, the examiner was unlikely to have previously encountered a bioptic driver. In addition, feedback I received from my own patients when they pursued their bioptic driver’s license, was that the DMV examiner had little idea how to perform vision tests on these individuals nor how to evaluate their on-road driving skills.

As a result of these issues, and as part of my role on the DMV Medical Board, I wrote a whitepaper backgrounder both for my NC Medical Board colleagues (one of whom was an ophthalmologist, while the others were neurologists, geriatricians, and a physiatrist) and for the DMV examiners in the field.

A DMV examiners guide to assessing a bioptic driver

In addition, as part of my role at Ocutech, I created three information brochures including:

I’m pleased to share this information with the low vision provider community.  I hope that this information is helpful and I invite you to share it as you see fit to help promote an effective understanding of how bioptics may enable visually impaired individuals to drive.

 

Bioptic Driving: The challenge of dealing with the state’s driver licensing office

By Henry A Greene, OD, FAAO

One of the great motivators for individuals to pursue bioptics is that they may become eligible to drive. 

In 2013 the State of North Carolina, my home state, passed its bioptic driving law that would enable some visually impaired individuals to be eligible to obtain a driver’s license.  Soon afterward I was invited to make a presentation to the state’s DMV Medical Board to explain what bioptics were all about and how they are used for driving (seems kind of backwards, doesn’t it?).  While I had expected to give a 30 minute presentation, the meeting lasted 2 hours and discussions explored a range of subjects related to vision and driving.

Soon after, I was invited to join the DMV Medical Review Board where I became involved not only in reviewing and ruling on DMV actions regarding individuals who were deemed inappropriate for licensure based upon a range of issues including vision, diabetic control, seizure disorders, substance abuse, cognitive status, behavioral issues and high accident rate.  In fact, the majority of the cases I was involved in reviewing were not vision-related at all.

In addition to my roll examining the cases of individual drivers, I became involved in reviewing and revising the DMV’s vision guidelines including developing the process for licensing bioptic drivers. After several months of exploring the range of options, including meetings with stakeholders, we developed the methods and process that would be used for evaluating drivers. These were boiled down to be as easily administrable as possible. But there are 100 counties in the state, and many hundreds of DMV examiners, and more often than not, the examiner was unlikely to have previously encountered a bioptic driver. In addition, feedback I received from my own patients when they pursued their bioptic driver’s license, was that the DMV examiner had little idea how to perform vision tests on these individuals nor how to evaluate their on-road driving skills.

As a result of these issues, and as part of my role on the DMV Medical Board, I wrote a whitepaper backgrounder both for my NC Medical Board colleagues (one of whom was an ophthalmologist, while the others were neurologists, geriatricians, and a physiatrist) and for the DMV examiners in the field. I wrote two versions of this backgrounder to share:

In addition, as part of my role at Ocutech, I created several information brochures including:

I’m pleased to share this information with the low vision provider community.  I hope that this information is helpful and I invite you to share it as you see fit to help promote an effective understanding of how bioptics may enable visually impaired individuals to drive. If you should have any questions, please email us at bioptics@Ocutech.com.

Approach patients with low vision on an individual basis (Featured in Optometry Times)

Low vision rehabilitation is a segment of optometry that lends itself to creativity in case management and approaches to help patients achieve their goals. As practitioners begin to establish a low vision practice, they will have the opportunity to provide value to their patients’ lives by developing solutions to achieve vocational, social, and daily living goals.
Continue reading –>

VES-Falcon Autofocus Bioptic Brings Tears of Joy

We received this amazing letter from one of Ocutech’s favorite prescribers and would like to share it with you. Thank you Dr. Fuhr for your kind words.

Falcon is One-of-a-Kind Device

Image of Dr. Patti Fuhr with veteran Patient wearing Ocutech Falcon Autofocus Bioptic My first experience with the new 4x Falcon autofocus bioptic telescope brought tears to my eyes– tears of joy. This type of system has been only a dream for so many years, for patients, and for prescribers. The previous version of the Ocutech autofocus has not been available for a few years, which left a void in my low vision rehabilitation prescribing practices. An autofocusing, wearable telescopic system is more appropriate for many persons with visual impairment who also have manual dexterity problems, tremors, shoulder or arm issues, or simply slow reaction times. An autofocus is also more appropriate for heavy users of telescopic systems, such as students, teachers, public speakers, and technical persons. And it can be prescribed for driving for appropriate candidates.

The Ocutech system is not a heavy box that sits on the face and eliminates the outside world. It is a telescopic system that mounts on a regular pair of glasses and provides a seamless transition in focus from 13 inches to optical infinity and anywhere in between. Also, it is an autofocus OPTICAL system, so it feels like normal vision magnified through a telescope. The Falcon is much more natural than any of the head borne video magnification systems available today. And, as with most distance viewing devices, it helps people feel more connected to the world beyond the limitations of their visual impairment.

New Powers are Now Available

Recently, Ocutech introduced 3x and 5.5x versions of the Falcon. I was amazed at the appreciable increase in the field of view with the 3x version (15 degrees) and the lightning speed at which it focuses. The 5.5x version has a good field of view (9.5 degrees) for a high power telescope and its optics are also nice and sharp.

All versions of the Falcon are astonishingly easy to fit and prescribe. The Ocutech website has videos that walk the prescribing doctor through the process, and prescribers can always call Ocutech for any questions or help necessary. They are very accessible, knowledgeable, and willing to help. Since the optics are basically the same as the manual focus systems, if you can’t afford new fitting systems, it is easy to demonstrate and fit with the Ocutech manual systems that are currently in many low vision rehabilitation offices. The frames are the same as used in the manual systems, and the parameters can be verified on the website.

I urge any prescribers to consider these autofocus bioptic systems for any patients interested in distance viewing enhancement. Personally, I have prescribed almost a dozen 4x autofocus systems to date, and all patients have been successful. I am thrilled that the 3x is now available, as it is appropriate for so many persons with mild to moderate visual acuity loss. It bridges the gap between the 1.7x and 2x SightScope Galilean bioptic telescope systems and the 4x autofocus. The cost of the autofocus systems is similar to that of many of the head borne video systems that, in my opinion, can’t compete with the Falcon. 

Autofocus Bioptic is a Game-Changer

Ocutech has brought great advances in technology to the practice of low vision rehabilitation, concentrating on the fairly neglected, but oh so important, study and application of technology to the field of distance vision enhancement. The autofocus bioptic systems allow seamless focus from distance to near, simply by looking at the object of interest. It allows the wearer to focus more on what they want to see rather than dealing with the technology with which they must interact. That, my friends, is a game-changer, for prescribers as well as patients with visual impairment.