Unique partnership brings gift of sight to Chicago children with low vision

Sight Savers America, Optelec, and Spectrios Institute donate high-tech vision aids to help children see things they never dreamed possible

CHICAGO (November 4, 2011) “You mean I can see the inside of flowers,” asked an incredulous Dwayne a nine year old Chicago Heights boy who had just been introduced to his sophisticated new vision aid.  Most folks call this advanced tool for the visually impaired a Closed Circuit Television Magnifier (CCTV).  Dwayne calls it magic.  And, indeed why not magic? The device can magnify objects up to 79 times their normal sizes, a feature which will allow Dwayne to clearly see things he never before dreamed possible.

This heartwarming scene was repeated seven more times throughout the day on Friday, Nov. 4. For the second year, Sight Savers America (SSA) teamed up with a unique three-way coalition to provide life changing  vision aids to underserved visually impaired children in the Chicago area.

These children, ages 7-16, were recommended for the equipment because of severe vision impairments such as Aniridia, Rod-Cone Dystrophy, Nystagmus, Ocular Albinism and other serious vision impairments.

Like, Dwayne, most children diagnosed with severe vision loss such as this can be helped and their vision greatly enhanced by placing highly specialized vision aids in their homes. This equipment is costly and is not covered by insurance. That’s where the coalition steps in.

Sight Savers’ Coalition partners include Optelec U.S. Inc., a world leader in innovative and life changing assistive technologies for the visually impaired and Spectrios Institute for Low Vision, an organization which provides comprehensive visual rehabilitation programs. The strength of this unique coalition lies in partnering for profit companies with nonprofit organizations with similar missions, allowing all three to fulfill their shared goal of helping children achieve the best vision-services possible.

With that goal in mind, Spectrios identified seven children who were ideal recipients for assistive technologies for the visually impaired.  Optelec donated several MultiView electronic video magnifiers capable of enlarging objects up to 79 times their original normal sizes.

Sight Savers, who coordinated the event, also donated one of the magnifiers and some handheld devices.  Jeff Kinney, author of the Wimpy the Kid series of books and movies named Sight Savers America his Charity of Choice which prompted Google to award SSA a donation to purchase another video magnifier for the Chicago clinic.

Sight Savers’ staff trained the children and their families on use of the vision aids then helped the kids pack up their new equipment to take home. Sight Savers will now provide extensive follow up services to the children and their families.

“We value lasting relationships with the kids we help,” said Jeff Haddox, Sight Savers America President/CEO, “therefore, we have an extensive follow-up program, checking in with them until the child’s 19th birthday. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Spectrios for working with us to identify the children who need our help and to Optelec for donating this life changing equipment. We all share a mutual goal, and that is to help these children make the most of their remaining vision, regain their childhood independence, and improve their quality of life.”

According to Optelec President Stephan Terwolbeck, “this unique partnership allows us to reach and help children who otherwise would not have immediate access to this type of technology and we are pleased to continue our ongoing partnerships with Sight Savers America and Spectrios Institute. The electronic video magnifiers will provide the children a means to stay connected with their family and peers and have the flexibility to do things like reading a book or doing their homework on their own which is so important at such an early age.”

Dwayne’s Mom Nyesia echoes that thought saying she is looking forward to the independence the new CCTV will give to her son.  Dwayne, meantime, has a few ideas of his own. “I am so excited, he said, with a broad grin. “The first thing I’m going to do is read the instruction books for Dragon Ball and Ragin’Blast, my favorite video games, and, you know, there is a book I love.  I can read it now.  It’s called Cool Stuff From All Over The World. It shows things like Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Still counting up all the things he can now do, the youngster said,  “and I love to draw planets in the solar system.  My magnifier will help me draw Saturn. That’s the hard one.”