January 23, 2015 11:12 pm
Updated: January 23, 2015 11:17 pm

Legally blind mom sees baby boy thanks to new technology


WATCH ABOVE: A new eye device allows a visually impaired mother to see her newborn baby for the first time. Angiela Seth has the story.

TORONTO – Seeing your baby’s face the moment he or she is born is a cherished moment for every parent. Legally blind new mom Karen Beitz feared being able to see her baby was something she would never be able to do.

But on the December, 2014, day her son was born, Beitz looked right into his eyes. Thanks to new eye vision technology developed by eSight, Beitz has a chance to see.

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“Seeing who he looked like and how big he really was,” Beitz says, recalling her first glimpse of her son. “He was chubby. He was very cute.”

Beitz has Stargardt disease, a genetic condition that causes macular degeneration. Beitz has a blind spot blocking the centre field of her vision, leaving her with only some peripheral sight. eSight allows her to see what is in front of her.

READ MORE: Advances in technology help visually impaired see again

The eyewear costs $15,000 and took six years to develop. The device is equipped with a video camera that sits on the bridge of the person’s nose. Images are captured by the camera which enhances the picture that is projected onto high definition screens in front of the person’s eyes.

It allows the person wearing the device to see details they never could have before.

Beitz’s sister Yvonne Felix also has Stargardt disease. Felix was part of a two-year trial, testing the device to see how well it worked and what needed to be adjusted. She say the device has changed her life.

“The first thing I have been able to do is become employed,” says Felix. “My background is in art and I was able to transform that into arts education. I was able to fill out forms, do grants, working with the Ontario Arts Council as an artist with an opinion.”

Felix says now she can do things on her own like travel, socialize with friends without barriers, and be a part of the world in a way she was not able to so do before.

READ MORE: Technology thought to weaken use of Braille among blind and visually impaired

According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) there are about half a million people living in Canada who are visually impaired.

New technologies like the eSight device are helping more people with vision impairment see. Other devices include glasses equipped with a special camera, electronic magnification readers, and electrodes that can be implanted in the retna for certain eye diseases. Vision specialists say this is the direction things are going to help those with impairments lead normal lives.

“Over 85 per cent of people who are legally blind have some degree of vision and that is where this technology or various vision aids can help those individuals,” Dr. Ana Juricic, low-vision specialist, tells Global News.

“So what we are finding is that there are more advancements and a lot of it is actually based on electronic devices that can help improve contrast and give magnification at the same time.”

The eSight device is currently not covered by OHIP, but the company is working on getting it under the Ontario health plan. The company does provide help in fundraising efforts to aid those who want to purchase the device, and is working to make the eyewear smaller, sleeker and less costly.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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