High-tech solutions to specialized vision issues

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During user trials for EnChroma lenses, co-founder Don McPherson would accompany people with colour blindness as they wore the specialized glasses outside for the first time.

The company’s chief scientist recalls some “jaw-dropping moments” as the wearers would stroll along the streets of Berkeley, California, and stop to marvel at the vibrant colours of flowers, the many shades of green in trees, the subtle textures of plants and the much-brighter blue sky.

“I would always gets those hair standing up on the back of my neck moments and I thought, yes, this is why I’m doing this,” he said in a telephone interview. “It was a pretty moving experience.”

It’s been several years since those testing-phase days and three years since EnChroma launched its colour-enhancing glasses to the public.

Today, the company’s website features many videos of people looking around in amazement at the colourful world around them as they try out the glasses.

EnChroma lenses are among the latest high-tech eyewear available for people with specialized vision issues. Companies have also designed products for low vision, a lazy eye and other problems.

About one in 12 men and one in 200 women – or roughly 300 million people worldwide – has some form of colour blindness.
EnChroma says four out of five people with a red-green colour vision deficiency – by far the most common form – can be helped by its eyewear.

Red-green colour blindness happens when the light-sensing function of the eye’s red and green cones overlap more than normal. This causes the two colours to look alike.

EnChroma lenses contain a filter that blocks some of the light in the overlap region, which creates a greater separation between the red and green cones, boosting colour vision.

“We don’t claim that this is a cure for colour blindness. It is not a cure. Like any eyeglass product, it is an optical assistive device,” the company’s website says.

EnChroma makes glasses for outdoor and indoor use, both for people with and without a prescription. There are also glasses for children and for use while playing sports.

Prices for adult glasses start at $349.

McPherson said the company is working now on securing approvals to release EnChroma contact lenses.

Currently, there are no optometry practices in Canada that carry test kits for EnChroma glasses, but the company is hoping to change that in 2016.

The glasses can be purchased online at www.enchroma.com. There is a 30-day guarantee.

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ESIGHT GLASSES
Ontario-based eSight Eyewear has developed electronic-assisted, customizable glasses that enable people with low vision and legal blindness to see.

Taylor West, vice-president of outreach and advocacy, said eSight eyewear has been able to help about three out of every four people with low vision that try out the product.

It’s an amazing feeling, she said, to see people benefit from the product for the first time.

“We like to say that our mission is to ‘make blindness history’ and eSight employees are lucky enough to see those effects every day,” she said.

“We get to see people use eSight to change their lives whether that means getting a job they didn’t think possible due to vision loss, excelling at school without other aids or enjoying their families and communities by seeing the things that they previously missed out on.”

eSight eyewear, available since 2013, uses a high-resolution camera to capture what the user is looking at and projects those images in real-time onto two LED screens in front of the wearer’s eyes, according to the company’s website.

West said the device has been shown to work for people aged eight to 88 with any of the most common causes of vision loss, including macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and some forms of glaucoma.

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, which has partnered with eSight, said the technology can have a remarkable impact on a person’s life.

“It’s an exciting device that can enable some people to recapture activities they haven’t experienced in decades, like watching their kids play soccer or reading the Sunday morning newspaper,” John Rafferty, president and CEO of CNIB, said in a post on the organization’s website.

Each pair of eSight glasses costs $19,500 CDN, but the company says it will do everything possible, through sponsors and funding organizations, to help people purchase a unit.

West said the company is “working hard” to secure more partnerships with governments, clinicians and other providers of services to people with low vision.

Anyone interested in trying eSight glasses or learning more about their product can visit www.esighteyewear.com.

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SHAW LENSES
Dr. Peter Shaw, an optometrist for more than 30 years, has developed unique lens designs capable of benefiting people with specialized vision issues, such as a lazy eye or who experience binocular vision impairment while looking through normal prescription lenses.

Shaw Vision Technology, patented in both Canada and the United States in 2011, uses more than 20,000 calculations to determine the optimum lens design for patients.

Since its inception in 2012, Shaw Lens has successfully treated nearly 4,000 children with a lazy eye, without the need for patching.

However, the lenses are used far more frequently to address glasses-induced aniseikonia, which is when the placement of images is different in each eye or the size of an image is different in each eye, something that commonly occurs when the eyes have a different prescription.

The distortion forces the brain to try to adapt, which can cause a long list of symptoms, including headaches, eye strain, dizziness, blurred vision, reading disabilities and double vision.

Shaw lenses are available as single-vision, bifocals, trifocals, progressive addition, desktop and ergonomic designs in clear, Transitions, Colormatic, polarized and custom tints.

They are currently available to optometrists from Plastic Plus.

“Without trying to sound trite, Shaw Vision Technology should be used for every prescription where the patient has two eyes and it is a treatment goal that the eyes should operate as a team and in concert,” Shaw said.

“Eyeglasses that do not satisfy the requirements for binocular vision are in fact obstacles and cause a breakdown of binocular vision.”

Shaw said the lenses have also proven to benefit people after cataract or LASIK surgery and can help people who have grown used to wearing contact lenses to more easily adapt to glasses.

Visit www.shawlens.com for more information on Shaw lenses.

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