My Path to OrCam, Part 2
by Holly Bonner
Editor's note: This is Part 2 of a blog post about Holly Bonner's experience with OrCam, a wearable assistive technology solution for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. To learn more about OrCam, read "My Path to OrCam, Part 1." This blog was originally posted on Holly's blog, Blind Motherhood.
My Path to OrCam, Part 2
During one of the hottest weeks in August, I arranged for my OrCam demonstration with Dr. Bryan Wolynski, a licensed optometrist and the company’s NYC representative. Of course the night before, "Mostly Wonderful" got called into work and my youngest daughter was up half the night teething. Motherhood, never a dull moment! Dr. Wolynski and I had agreed to meet around 11 a.m. at my home. With my daughters fed, dressed, and the television permanently set to Disney Junior, I was hoping my OrCam demo would have minimal interruptions.
When my husband phoned me from work that morning, he could tell I was anxious about taking this technology for a test drive. He had really wanted to be a part of the process since he too had spent a fair amount of time watching videos and reading up on the product. Unfortunately, I had to experience OrCam alone, and I was nervous. Seriously, I had butterflies in my stomach.
For anyone thinking to themselves, "Well, isn’t she dramatic," or "Give me a break," try looking at this technology from my perspective. I wasn’t born blind. My vision loss was a result of a long-term illness. There was a painful progression from being sighted to becoming visually impaired. Over the past four years I have been forced to adapt to my darker world using various types of technology. Some of the stuff works great and frankly some of it blows.
Being a mom complicates my visual impairment. My girls are rambunctious toddlers. Sure, they understand that mommy’s eyes don’t work quite as well as theirs, but they also lack patience.
As much as I strive for my home to run like a well oiled machine by maintaining a high level of organization, sometimes things get misplaced. And when that happens and "daddy" isn’t around to help find their favorite book or the doll they need to take their nap,things go to hell in a hurry.
And you want to know something? Asking my husband for help totally sucks. BIG TIME! Because I’m the mommy, and I want to be able to take care of my girls on my own. I want to find that toy and read that book because in that moment they need to be comforted. I’m the mom, that’s my job. It’s heartbreaking and defeating to realize there are times I just can’t make it all better — at least not on my own.
In my mind, if OrCam really could provide me accurate, quick information then I would be that much closer to being the kind of mom that I want to be. The one who can do things by herself, not just sometimes, but all the time. It’s a personal struggle I face as a disabled parent, one that I’m trying to work on. To me, having the opportunity to actually try OrCam was a very big deal!
Meeting Dr. Bryan
Because my kids couldn’t say "Dr. Wolynski", my girls and I just called him, Dr. Bryan. And boy, did they love Dr. Bryan. He was amazingly sweet and gentle with my kids, and they were in rare form that day! OY!
Dr. Bryan and I sat in my kitchen and had an informal introduction with one another. I provided him with a copy of a visual field test that I had recently had done with my low vision doctor. A visual field test measures a patient’s full horizontal and vertical range of vision. OrCam didn’t request any test results, but I thought it would be helpful for Dr. Bryan to see just where my small amount of residual vision was located.
Dr. Bryan had his OrCam stored in a tiny black case, no bigger than my cosmetic bag. He handed me the battery pack and ran my fingers over the buttons. It was no bigger than the remote control from my DVD player and the buttons were very easy to find. He then handed me a set of eyeglass frames with the OrCam already attached. The device was amazingly light and sleek looking. I had imagined it much bigger and more cumbersome (Remember, Schwarzenegger).
We turned on the device and when I motioned my head towards Dr. Bryan, I heard a male voice say, "Bryan, Bryan." The OrCam had been preprogrammed to recognize the good doctor. It was completely amazing! I was then handed an OrCam brochure. Dr. Bryan instructed me to point my finger towards the text so the device could take a picture. Using my index finger, I made the pointing gesture, hearing two beeps and then a shutter sound (similar to when my iPhone snaps a picture). The OrCam actually read me the brochure!
But the thing that really sent me over the edge was when I picked up my local newspaper while wearing the OrCam. I get the newspaper delivered to my home every day. If I’m lucky, I can read some of the larger headlines with a magnifier or closed circuit television. While wearing the OrCam, I could hear the entire front page of the newspaper. Headlines. By-lines. Journalist’s names. Even photo captions!
I was in serious danger of losing my tough New Yorker street cred, because I literally thought I was going to cry. I had forgotten what it felt like to hold a newspaper in my hand and read it. It was something I had deeply missed, and Dr. Bryan explained to me that my extreme reaction was normal given the sight loss I had experienced.
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