'Wearable Independence' for Blind Veterans Available Through the VA

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According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, roughly 130,000 veterans are legally blind, and another one million veterans experience low vision. Blindness is characterized by the inability to see, while low vision includes some sight, but the issue is unable to be corrected by glasses or surgery. Low-vision symptoms can include poor night vision, blurriness and blind spots. Some age-related eye conditions that adversely impact vision include retinitis pigmentosa, cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

There are multiple low vision conditions that result in the deterioration of individuals' residual vision. Of course, veterans are not immune to being affected by eye diseases. 

Low vision is a vision problem that makes it hard to do everyday activities. It can’t be fixed with glasses, contact lenses, or other standard treatments like medicine or surgery.  

But those who experience low vision or who are legally blind can now arm themselves with a wearable assistive technology tool that supports people with vision loss using a different -- and breakthrough -- approach.

OrCam MyEye, a device the size of a finger, magnetically snaps onto virtually any pair of eyeglasses. The solution communicates certain visual information -- such as text, faces and products -- by speaking to the device wearer.

This "personal AI" device is powered by Computer Vision and Machine Learning technologies that are so innovative OrCam MyEye was recognized by Time Magazine as a Best Invention of 2019. And for veterans who are eligible, the device is currently being issued through the VA.

OrCam MyEye instantly reads any printed text (book, newspaper, menu) and digital screens (computer, smartphone, tablet) out loud, or you can connect it to your headphones via Bluetooth. Other features of the tiny device enable the user to recognize faces and identify products and barcodes. 

It is the only wearable assistive technology for vision impairment that can be activated by intuitive hand gestures or even by voice commands -- which allow you to operate the device fully hands free. OrCam MyEye functions completely offline, thereby ensuring uninterrupted use in any environment, speedy operation -- and data privacy protection since all computations take place "locally."

Veterans who use this new solution report feeling increased independence and the ability to handle everyday tasks successfully, such as intuitively reading both snail mail and emails with the Smart Reading feature; supermarket shopping by recognizing products and barcodes; and knowing when friends and family are standing in front of them with facial recognition features.

Two visually impaired veterans who rely on OrCam MyEye have shared their life-changing experiences:

"Due to my low vision, I wasn't able to recognize my wife, and have a hard time recognizing faces because I could only see silhouettes. Now with OrCam MyEye, I can know that my wife is there -- and this makes me happy. I also use the device to read a lot of e-books, and I love using it to read text from my computer monitor."

"I use OrCam MyEye for reading, especially the mail, printed materials, menus, and hanging signs. I like to cook and bake, and I use the device to follow recipes. Because of my device, I save time and can avoid the anxiety of depending on someone else. I have not, and will not, allow my disability to define me or predict my future. OrCam has provided me the ability to be more independent in my business and in my personal life. I can read business-related documents, scanned material and most important to me is mail. Nothing is worse than to receive mail and not know what it is. So, it's the simple things that make the difference."

Veterans who have VA health coverage and are legally blind or have low vision may be eligible to receive the product fully funded by the VA, regardless of the age of the veteran or whether the condition occurred during active service.

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