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Local Organization Using High-Tech Glasses To Help Visually Impaired 'See'

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A local organization is using technology to help increase a sense of independence for people with disabilities. One of those high-tech gadgets -- eyeglasses that read text out loud to a user. The device is known as OrCam. It’s a small camera attached to a pair of glasses that recognizes text.

A second generation of the device was launched in 2015, but Pace Inc. Center for Independent Living in Urbana was recently given the OrCam to help serve people with disabilities in central Illinois.

There are many challenges people who are blind or visually impaired may face.

“I became a brittle diabetic, and then I started having bleeding in my eyes and then I had some surgery in my eyes and started losing vision,” OrCam user at Pace, Mindy Haile said. “Cooking, sewing, and cleaning was on my list, but when I started losing my vision, I became more and more limited in what I can do.”

With the OrCam a woman’s voice reads text out loud to those who can't read it themselves – making life a little easier.

“The first time I put them and it started reading to me, it was amazing!” Haile said. “At home I’d have to say can you read this to me what does this say what are the directions."

After putting the glasses on the user can take a finger, hold it towards his/her nose, then point towards a page with text. From there the OrCam takes a picture of what's in front of it, then reads the page out loud.

“It gives them this sense of independence it gives them this sense of freedom, this sense of yes I can,” transition specialist at Pace, Avi Laird said.

Pace’s mission is to help people with disabilities hold on to their independence -- technology and the latest high-tech equipment helps them achieve that mission.

“Imagine getting a bill, imagine something in life that's essential and important to you and you don't feel quite ready yet to share that with the world, but yet you want to know,” Laird said. “If you have a disability you may not be able to keep that independence and you may not be able to keep that sense of privacy."

The OrCam can also be programmed so that it identifies objects and faces.

“We grew up in a large family and my father said 'if you can read you can do anything,'” Haile said. “Well when all of a sudden your ability to read is taken away from you, you really get limited so this restores that and all of a sudden it opens a whole world.”

Champaign county is the only place in downstate Illinois that has an OrCam. Pace allows anyone with a disability to come in and use the low-vision equipment. To learn more about Pace Inc. Center for Independent Living click here.

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