Low-Vision Devices Keep Independence in Sight
March 7, 2000 (Lake Worth, Fla.) -- When 77-year-old Bernard Windham, a
retired CPA, had to stop doing his family's tax returns, he felt lost and
useless. Suffering from macular degeneration -- a progressive eye disorder
usually occurring in elderly people that is characterized by loss of vision in
the center of the eye -- Windham, who also has a cataract, was classified as
legally blind. He was told that nothing more could be done. What Windham and
most people don't realize is that there is a whole world of
low-vision-assisting devices that will help keep life in focus.
One such device is the Jordy, a virtual reality device that magnifies images
up to 25 times for distance and 50 times for close-up work. When Windham heard
about this futuristic-looking device, he made an appointment at Emory Eye
Center's Low Vision Clinic in Atlanta to see if it would help him.
"Users can wear Jordy like a pair of ultra-high-tech glasses or place
the system on a viewing stand for reading on a closed-captioned
television," Ned Witkin, OD, director of the Low Vision Clinic, states in a
press release. The Jordy is light and portable and can assist in reading,
writing, playing cards, sewing, working at a computer, recognizing faces at a
distance, or nearly any task -- except driving -- that a person needs to
maintain his or her lifestyle.
"I've had the Jordy about a month now," Windham tells WebMD.
"I'm very enthusiastic about it; it's allowed me to be useful again."
Now this Suwanee, Ga., father of five with seven grandchildren can still keep
all the deductions on his family members' tax returns in view.
About 13 million people are affected by age-related macular degeneration
(AMD). It is the leading cause of legal blindness for people over 50 in the
Western world. Low-vision clinics, such as the one at Emory, can help people
like Windham maintain their lifestyle by finding the right vision-assisting
device as well as providing rehabilitation therapy to assist them with
continuing their daily activities.
There are many low-vision-assisting devices. Some are as sophisticated as
the Jordy, and others are simply special glasses with very high-powered lenses.
Devices that are not electronic include telescopic lenses and other kinds of
special lenses that can be used for distance. Magnifiers, which are used for
reading and close-up work, can be a pair of glasses or hand-held and have a
self-contained light source.
Available electronic devices include the MaxPort, a computer mouse-like
device that scans a page and magnifies it on a regular television screen or a
closed circuit television (CCTV). When using the CCTV, reading material is
placed on a platform and projected onto a screen. Contrast can be
"The majority of people with macular degeneration prefer white letters
on a black background," Bruce Rosenthal, OD, tells WebMD. Rosenthal is
chief of the Low Vision Program at Lighthouse International and a professor at
Mount Sinai-New York University Medical Center.