I love being an eye doctor! Helping people experience the richness of life by giving them the best possible vision brings me a strong sense of satisfaction and purpose. But sometimes, people lose vision despite our best efforts. Sometimes, people are born with blindness or serious vision impairment.
As eye doctors, we have a variety of special tools available to us to help those with vision impairment, but sometimes there is no substitute for a pair of eyes to see something. That is one reason why the blind and visually impaired have flocked to smartphones, especially Apple’s iPhone. By initiating a video chat, they can ask a friend or family member for assistance if they are available. The problem is that there isn’t always a friend or family member available.
That is where you and I can help. A brilliant new App called Be My Eyes has recently launched for the iPhone (an android version has not yet been released). The free app takes advantage of the iPhone’s camera and it’s video networking capabilities to connect a sighted person with a blind or visually impaired person. Requests only come in from 7AM-10PM in your local time zone and can be passed on to another volunteer if you are busy. It is available worldwide in 10 languages.
Nearly 7,000 blind and visually impaired have already downloaded the app in the week it has been available. Another 90,000 sighted volunteers have agreed to be someone’s eyes. You can learn more at bemyeyes.org. They have a great video showing some of the small ways that we can be a big help to a visually impaired person. I hope that many in our wonderful community can join in this project!
Local Resources for the Visually Impaired Are Available
Locally, the south side is fortunate to have Audrey Demmitt, formerly the school nurse at J.C. Booth Middle School as organizer of a support group for the visually impaired and blind. Called Envision, the group meets monthly at Arbor Terrace in Peachtree City (Crosstown and Peachtree Parkway). The next meeting is scheduled for February 3 from 6:30PM – 8:00PM. Ms. Demmitt who is visually impaired herself is a wellspring of great information and the group supports members ranging in age from teens to seniors. Call Ms. Demmitt for more details at (770) 631-6455.
The state of Georgia also has resources available to the visually impaired of all ages. Support services are primarily coordinated through the school system for children, Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Services (GVRA) for adults and Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) for adults of retirement age or older. CVI is presenting a program called Living with Low Vision on February 9th at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro. To learn more or register call Diane Lumpkin at (704) 236-7444. Remember you can choose to donate $1 to support CVI when renewing your driver’s license through their “Drive for Sight” program.
There are so many people living with vision impairment in our communities. I am excited to be able to help with the Be My Eyes app for my iPhone. It’s nice to know that I can do so much in a way that asks just for a moment of my time. I hope you will join me in this worthy project!
Dr. John Henahan is a fellowship trained doctor of optometry practicing and living right here in Peachtree City with his wife and two sons. You may call his office at (770) 487-0667 or visit him on the web at www.speceye.com.