High-tech gadgets give blind granny new independence
Ruby Wood has lived in the same Melbourne house for almost 60 years and knows every nook and cranny of it. But when the 86-year-old was declared legally blind in 2005 due to age-related macular degeneration she feared she would be forced to move.
"I had a little peripheral vision so I could still get about and do my things but I was worried I eventually wouldn't be able to cope on my own," she said. "But I didn't want to go. I didn't want to lose my independence.
"The worst thing was that I couldn't read so I would go down to the club to ask a friend to read my bills and letters, or I had to get my neighbour to help. My son and daughter live about 50 minutes away, so they can't be here every day."
Fortunately, Vision 2020 Australia member Vision Australia has adapted Ruby's house to make it easier for her to live there. This included placing white non-slip strips along her back steps for better visibility and putting tactile markers on her stove so she could feel the settings – little things that have made a big difference. Vision Australia also provided Ruby with a large-face watch, a large-button phone and a liquid level – a gadget that tells her when a cup is full.
But her favourite piece of equipment is the closed-circuit television (CCTV) that Vision Australia installed for her in late 2006. Ruby simply places text – be it on a medicine bottle or in a book – on a plate and the image is displayed on a monitor at eye level.
"I was amazed I could read again," says Ruby. "It's changed my lifestyle. I'm more independent now. That was the worst thing about macular degeneration – I could do most things with some effort, but I found it very hard to read the labels on my medicine bottles."
Ruby is determined to help spread the word about the services and equipment Vision Australia can offer other elderly people.
"I think you have to make the effort," she says. "You can't just say 'I can't do it. It's difficult.' You need determination and you have to want to be helped; then you can achieve anything you set out to do. In my case, I can stay in my own home and look after myself."
The MD Foundation offers a range of information for people interested in finding out more about macular degeneration. Visit www.mdfoundation.com.au (external link)
More information about Vision Australia services can be found at www.visionaustralia.org (external link)