Local lifestyle columnists

Gadgets help low-vision people ‘see’

By From page B7 | March 15, 2014

bass column sig

One of the great truths in life is that if you meet enough people, you will find ideas and good things to do. That certainly was true when I met Bonnie Demuth.

I was introduced to Bonnie by Betty, one of the regulars at my midwalk coffee stop at the Sunset McDonald’s. It was not a “chance” meeting or introduction.

Bonnie told me about the Low Vision Support Group and invited me to come to  their next meeting, which was to feature   new equipment designed to help the visually impaired see and function better. Because I am “impaired,” I wanted to see what was available, so I accepted her invitation. Because it seemed like an idea that might be helpful the other folks with vision problems, I said a few words about the meeting in a column.

I must have done some good because about twice as many folks as normal were at the meeting, including Amy Maginnis-Honey and a photographer from the Daily Republic.

Yes, I went to the meeting and learned a lot. It was a double positive day for me because I arrived about 30 minutes early (I caught an early bus) and had a chance to meet and talk with Lucille Bowers, the director of the preschool at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church where the Low Vision  Support Group meeting was taking place. Lucille and I had talked on the phone but this was our first real face-to-face meeting.

Some of the new equipment was pretty amazing. A desktop closed-circuit television machine that magnified material up to 77  times was amazing. More amazing was the feature that actually read the printed material to you – in either a man’s voice or a woman’s voice. An interesting feature of the equipment was that you could rotate the TV camera around and  use it to put on makeup or shave. I don’t remember exactly, but I think the closed-circuit television had a 24-inch screen.

Then there was a handheld device that folks use to read menus, cash register receipts and other small items. It’s purse-size, so it’s truly portable. They were offering discounts on both pieces of equipment.

While there, I had the chance to renew some old acquaintances, including Bev Duncan, who worked for the Preston furniture store. I had been curious as to whether the store is still open. Bev said, yes, but by appointment only.

The Low Vision Support Group has been in operation about nine years, which happens to coincide with the time that Bonnie was hit by macular degeneration.

I also met Woody, Bonnie’s friend, who provides transportation for her. Nice guy. He has 20-20 vision.

There are a lot of services that low-vision folks may not be aware of. For example, there is a library that provides verbal “books” to the visually impaired. People can listen to things they are unable to read. Friend Cathy Ritch had loaned me several  of them, which she used to “read herself to sleep.” Very nice. It worked for me.

I am curious as to what other programs are available for low-vision folks. I’ll check that out and let you know. I have griped about technology in the past, but there is nothing to complain about here. I’m sure I will go to future meetings. Bonnie will remind me and tell me what’s coming up. I’ll try to do the same with you.

Reach Murray Bass at 427-0744 or [email protected]

Murray Bass


Discussion | 2 comments

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  • The MisterMarch 15, 2014 - 8:23 am

    Murray... that machine that can read to you in a woman's voice, is there switch for low and sultry?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Murray BassMarch 15, 2014 - 10:44 am

    Yes. And I think there is a setting for warm fragrances, too. But that is an expensive extra.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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