Saturday, October 13, 2007

A magnifying glass help the visually impaired with their reading

The Pikesville Library has capped the refurbishment of its Large Type Lounge for the visually impaired with the gift of a new Optelec text magnifier.

A $10,500 gift by Pikesville's Sylvan and Isabelle Ribakow Foundation was used to outfit the large-type section of the library with large-print books, seating and better lighting; $2,500 was used to purchase the text magnifier, library manager Allan McWilliams said.

The machine has a flat bed where books can be placed, the text can then be blown up and projected onto a screen, similar to a computer monitor, directly in front of the user.

The equipment at the Pikesville Library can blow images up anywhere from two to 50 times their original size.

"The resolution is just amazing," McWilliams said. "It's hard to imagine if you don't have vision problems. Just trying to read something simple can be extremely difficult. This equipment allows someone to read their mail or the newspaper or a book when even larger print isn't enough."
Before the donation by the Ribakow Foundation, the library had what McWilliams called a dated magnifying machine and a computer with adaptive software to help magnify text. Both, he said, were tucked away.

But the new machine is proudly displayed at the end of the row, looking sleek and refined. The adaptive software is still available, and McWilliams hopes it will soon be updated.

Because Sylvan Ribakow suffered from macular degeneration, in which the macula of the eye deteriorates, greatly weakening vision, the foundation has a special interest in donating to pursuits for the vision impaired. The foundation also donates to the arts, primarily opera.

As the library readied for its 3,500-square-foot expansion and renovation, the foundation was looking for an outlet to donate to locally, Isabelle Ribakow said. A member of the Pikesville senior center, which is located above the library, Isabelle Ribakow suggested updating the large-type section.

"We like to keep some of our donations local, and it just so happened that this was the right time and place to do that," she said.

Library staff said there has been a positive reception of the new equipment.

One patron, a patient at the Wilmer Eye Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital, raved about being able to read the newspaper, said Melissa Gotsch, assistant library manager. He kept trying to pay for the service, she said.

"It was extremely moving that this man was so happy and excited about being able to read again," Gotsch said. "It brought a tear to some of us. We've received very positive feedback about the new magnifying equipment."

Sylvan Ribakow wasn't able to see or use the equipment installed at the library. He died Sept. 12 of heart failure.

Isabelle Ribakow said she will continue to lead the couple's foundation and explore local projects.
"I'm very proud of what we were able to do at the library, and I intend to keep going," she said.

E-mail Mike Fila at


Post a Comment

<< Home