Cutting edge technology lets blind veteran read again

Rod MacLaren's life has been transformed by the OrCam MyEye – a device that sits on his glasses and turns text into speech

Things are looking up for a blind military veteran thanks to cutting edge technology that is allowing him read again.

Rod MacLaren’s central vision has been severely deteriorating since being diagnosed with genetic condition Stargadt disease in 1994.

The 83-year-old retired farm worker, from Auchterarder, managed to adapt to life with limited sight until last year when he found that he was forced to rely on family and friends for help.

But sight loss charity Scottish War Blinded have managed to transform his life with the OrCam MyEye – a discreet camera that is fixed onto the frames of Rod’s glasses that can turn text into speech, allowing him to hear the words.

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Rod MacLaren has been able to pick out audiobooks at the library and read his favourite recipes

The device has given Rod, who served for two years’ National Service as a Private with the Seaforth Highlanders in Egypt, Aden (now Yemen), and Gibraltar, his independence back.

And just like The Big Issue ethos of #WhyBooksMatter, Rod is all too eager to reconnect with the written word.

“It’s a fantastic gadget and it makes a big difference to the day-to-day,” he said.

“I can read letters, pick out an audiobook at the library and go to the supermarket to do my shopping without help.

“I have lived here for the past 18 years so I know my way around. But last year I was getting to the stage where I needed someone to accompany me to the supermarket to help pick out the products and tell me what they were.

“I would come back with the wrong items which was frustrating. I was really relying on the help of strangers.”

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Rod is also a keen baker and the gadget has allowed him to read recipes and keep up his yearly tradition of cooking Christmas dinner for his elderly neighbours.

Scottish War Blinded also gifted Rod some talking scales to help with his kitchen creations.

He added: “When I was first told about the OrCam I thought it wouldn’t be for me – I thought it would be a great big thing. But I was sold on it as soon as I had the demonstration. It’s incredibly clever and very easy to use.

“I think people can be wary of technology like this and think it won’t suit them. But I think you just have to give these things a go. It’s difficult when you start to lose your sight so it’s important to reach out to support groups and charities like Scottish War Blinded. The support makes life so much easier.”

The gadget (visible on the right-side frame of his glasses) has given Rob his independence back
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The OrCam was suggested by Scottish War Blinded outreach worker for Perth and Kinross, Marjory Kirkwood.

She said: “I’m very pleased with how the OrCam has helped Rod so far. He’s an extremely thoughtful and independent gentleman who is very active in his community. He truly deserves this piece of equipment.”

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