Legally blind Ottawa girl uses high-tech to see
Published Tuesday, October 29, 2013 5:20PM EDT
Nine year old Emma-Rose Gibson has never heard of Geordi La Forge.
But she has more in common with the fictional character from Star Trek: The Next Generation than she realizes.
The character, played by actor LeVar Burton, was blind and used a high-tech visor to see. Emma-Rose Gibson is legally blind. But she can now see more than ever before thanks to her new high-tech eyewear.
ESight Corporation is a Kanata-based company that has developed eyewear to assist people with severely limited vision. It contains a high resolution camera that sees what the wearer is looking at. The camera’s signal is sent to a small computer that can alter the image to accommodate the user’s disability. It’s then played back in real time on two tiny LED screens inside the visor. “This manipulated image gets a better signal to the brain,” says eSight spokesperson Julie Fotheringham. “So people who haven’t been able to see can actually read, can actually see the board.”
Emma-Rose Gibson has a condition called optic nerve hypoplasia. She cannot see clearly more than a few centimetres in front of her. She can’t see anything written on the board in her grade four classroom at St. John the Apostle School in Nepean. But, with the help of her Esight eyewear, she can see just as far, or farther, than her classmates. “I can see things even they can’t. That’s how good the eyewear is,” she says.
“It’s life-changing,” says Emma’s mom, Jennifer-Anne Gibson. “Just all the things we know we can do with her now. Every day we add five more things to the list.”
The product is brand new. And it’s expensive. A set currently costs almost $10-thousand dollars. The Gibsons did some community fundraising to help pay for Emma’s. Julie Fotheringham says eSight is hoping the eyewear will qualify under Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program to help others defray the cost.