July 3, 2002 at 9:48 PM CDT - Updated July 26 at 11:52 PM
people over age 45 are affected with irreversible low vision. The good news is, in many cases, they don't have to accept it anymore, thanks to devices that give high hopes to low vision patients.
Betty Solway Smith is one of those patients, but she's taking on three roles in Shakespeare's "Richard the Third," even though she has macular degeneration, an eye disease that destroys central or "straight on" vision. "I can see the big room. I cannot see your features," Betty describes.
It makes it tough to read a script. So Betty gets help from something as low-tech as a simple magnifier to a high tech virtual reality device that 'electronically' enlarges the print. It lets her peripheral vision see what her central vision can't.
"That is the vision we access in low vision rehab," according to low vision expert Janet Steinberg, who says
there are literally hundreds of devices for people like Betty. "Our goal is to solve the patient's problem in the least expensive, simplest way possible that fits into their lifestyle."
There are microscopic and telescopic lenses. A slick James Bond-type lens that you can hide in your hand. And computer technology has helped improve low vision rehabilitation enormously. "There are a lot of people out there working to find ways to help people see better." Dr. Steinberg says.
Betty has found success in her search for better vision, and is optimistic that others can make the most of the technology available, too, "Instead of looking down and saying that your cup is empty or half empty, think of it as being half full. It really is."