“My sister was working for the esight company,” said Kathy Bietz. “She was showing me the booklet she had to go through with clients. I put the glasses on and I was able to see.” That was the first time Bietz saw her husband. “I have always been attracted to him, but when I took a look at him, I was like, that’s right! I knew it! I think he is a totally cutie,” she said. Bietz has Stargardt’s macular degeneration, a juvenile form of macular degeneration. “Esight is basically a video pair of binoculars that allow patients with vision loss especially from macular types of conditions to see,” said Dr. Anna Juricic, whose clinic was the first to have esight eyewear. She has been following this technology since the early prototype. This wasn’t the first time Bietz tested the eyewear. Prior to working for the company, her sister was an ambassador. When she was going through the process of getting her eyewear she informed esight about her sister. They tested Bietz withthe eyewear, but it didn’t work.
Two years later they came back with adjustments based on the information and feedback from trials. This time she could see. “The moment I realized how much I could see was when she showed me a regular cheque,” said Bietz. “ I could see pay to the order of, where the lines were, and where to write the date. I have never been able to see that before.” There is no government assistance to help pay for the $15,000 device. In Ontario there is a special government program, which helps some individuals who fit the criteria to pay a portion of their vision aids. However, esight isn’t covered at this time. When she was pregnant Bietz was thinking of ways to make purchasing the eyewear possible. She got them on December 10, the day her baby was born. She had a planned C-section in order to organize when she got the glasses with her child’s birth. Just a few hours after her son was born, she was given the eyewear.
“When he was given to me with the glasses on, I could see the expression on my younger brother’s face. I could see the look on my husband’s face. I had never seen that before. I got to see all of his little features and who he looked like and the little expressions and lines on his face. I really carved it into my memory. I just sat there and stared at him for the longest time.” she said. “I will never forget that, even if I go completely blind, I will never forget the way he looked that day.”
The first time she went shopping with the glasses was a really big deal. “The women who did my eyebrows were helping me with my makeup,” she said. They told her to put on the glasses to see what they had done. She put them on and was pleased. “I never get to do that,” she said. “I’m always trusting people … I am a girl. I try to put myself together. I try to look professional. It is nice to be able to take a look for myself and see the coverage or see if I want the lipstick colour a little bit darker. Maybe I want a little more blush. It is a big thing for me to have that kind of independence.” The glasses do not correct her disease. She still sees her blind spot. However, the sight that she does IT IS NICE TO BE ABLE TO TAKE A LOOK FOR MYSELF AND SEE THE COVERAGE OR SEE IF I WANT THE LIPSTICK COLOUR A LITTLE BIT DARKER.have the technology enhances it. “I think that enhances my quality of life,” she said. “I can read the schedule at the bus stop and decide when I am going to take it. Before, I either had to ask somebody to read it for me or stand there and just wait until it came. Such a small thing has such a huge impact on my day.” They slip right on and off and there is a really easy to find button that turns esight on and off. “I can 1adjust the contrast. I can adjust the distance to see clearly. There is an even auto setting. I can take pictures with the device of things I see that I want to read or look at later,” Bietz said. Dr. Juricic told us that, “Because they are electronic the person can actually increase the magnification up to fourteen times. They can adjust the brightness level and also the contrast level especially when it comes to reading. A lot of my patients prefer reading text white on black and the esight eyewear allows them to do that.”
There are a lot of devices available and Dr. Juricic suggests that eyecare professionals research some of the new devices. “Many people who have graduated quite some time ago might not be aware of where technology has gone when it comes to electronic eyewear or portable eyewear magnification. Even in terms of what is available for smart phones and tablets. There are even apps that are great for those who are visually impaired,” she said.