Saturday, November 07, 2009

Special devices helps the visually impaired

An estimated 18 million Americans are either blind or visually impaired, and in San Diego County that number is around 105,000. Now, a local company's special device is helping improve sight for many visually impaired people, including a teacher in Imperial Beach, 10 News reported. Watching her move around the classroom at Imperial Beach Elementary School, one would never know Erin Goodwin-Allen is visually impaired. She has had retinitis pigmentosa since birth."It's a challenging disease because I look completely normal," said Goodwin-Allen.

She sees her third-grade class through a narrow field of vision, a kind of tunnel vision. She recognizes her students by where they sit."My desks are very specific where they are also because if one desk is moved, I'll run into it," said Goodwin-Allen.Goodwin-Allen now uses a new tool called FarView, which is developed by San Diego-based Optelec. For a spelling test, it magnifies the words dramatically and it can save up to 100 images and magnify up to 50 times.Users can snap photos with the FarView and store text. It also has an automatic scrolling feature that allows people to read documents with ease.The FarView comes in a compact mini version, which is easier to carry around. It magnifies text, and with the push of a button it changes the background and the color to make it easier to read.Goodwin-Allen, a wife and mother of two, uses it at home when paying bills."I'm really independent and so I don't have to rely on anybody else. I can use that to pay bills and that's been the biggest godsend," said Goodwin-Allen.

The FarView can be used for distances as well. Users can freeze images and then zoom in to see it clearly.Goodwin-Allen said, "It's just been amazing."For now, it's a valuable tool for Goodwin-Allen at school and home. Soon she plans on going to a restaurant and reading the menu by herself.Optelec has teamed with the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and they are partners in the VisionWalk on Nov. 8 to help raise money for research on retinal diseases.Goodwin-Allen will not only be walking, she is the even chair.For more information on the VisionWalk, click


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