By Jessica Stine, Guest Blogger Twenty-four years ago, I was diagnosed with a form of Retinitis Pigmentosa or RP. At first, I did not believe that this condition would lead to blindness. When teachers began teaching Braille and mobility skills, I was stubborn. Even though I did learn those skills, I was resistant in doing those activities. By the time I graduated from high school, I was already glad to have those skills, because using magnifiers and other large print items were becoming harder to see with my failing eyes. After high school, I attended a local community college where they had very little experience working with students who were visually impaired. But through hurdles, I and the community college, was able to make it work. I earned an associate degree in general studies and went on to work for an agency that assists people with disabilities. I worked as a receptionist for seven years until they put installed an automatic phone system. While working at this job, I assisted in starting a self-advocacy group. When my secretarial position ended, I returned to the same community college and earned a certification as a paralegal. It was nearing the time of my completion of this certification program that I got hired at the Department of Health and Mental hygiene and the Developmental Disabilities Administration as an advocacy specialist. This is where I currently work and I love providing support and guidance to people with disabilities regarding their DDA services and helping them discover their own voice while advocating for their wants and needs. About a year ago, I heard about the OrCam device and was amazed by the technology. I found out about OrCam through several vision impaired groups that I follow on Facebook. I then decided to look further into this new technology to see if it would work for me; a person who has only light perception and can only recognize black and white. I made an appointment at Envision Technology Inc in Bathesda Maryland. On June 24, 2016, I had a demo of the OrCam MyEye device. I was so amazed by the items I could recognize with the camera. I left that day with an OrCam MyEye. I must say it has been an experience that words truly can not do justice. But I will do my best to capture my “wow moments” as I call them. On the second day home with my OrCam MyEye, I went to check the mail. As I walked back to my door, I had read with OrCam MyEye’s assistance who to give the mail to in my house. I was laughing while I came inside. My mom asked “what are you laughing about?” I handed her the mail and said “here this is for you.” Before the OrCam MyEye, I would have to hand the mail to a sighted person so they could tell me there was any mail that was for me. The first time I went to the store using my OrCam MyEye was a great experience. Normally, I write a list up on my phone, and tell whoever I am with the items I want and we go and get them. Of course, most products have several different varieties so the person I am with will say the different choices to me. Not on this trip. I took pictures with the OrCam MyEye and knew what the different items were and could “read” their prices. I knew each isle we were in by taking a picture of the sign as we turned down that isle. It has taken several tries but I figured out how to use my OrCam MyEye to capture exactly what I want to read. Another “wow moment” was when I was in a restaurant and I was able to read the print menu with my OrCam MyEye. Before I had the OrCam device, I would have to get someone to read it to me, especially if they did not have a Braille menu. This time, I was able to take a picture and figure out what was on the menu and the price of each dish. I have also used the facial recognition to program into my OrCam device the faces of all my co-workers. Now, I know when they come into my office and if they are in the hallway. The only additions that would make this device more amazing for me would be if it could recognize color and my dogs haha but truly I am satisfied, blessed, and glad to have the OrCam MyEye in my arsenal of devices that assist me to be more independent. If you think the OrCam MyEye is cool and amazing, then go to an OrCam dealer and try them out for yourself. You will be so thrilled you did it, and you too can experience your own “wow moments.”
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