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Eyesight Issue? It May Be Time To Look Into Lions Low Vision Centers

The Lions Low Vision Centers of Fairfield and New Haven Counties (LLVC) recently delivered a free Eye-Pal Solo reading device to Adrienne Ralles, 82, a Nunnawauk Meadows resident with macular degeneration. The device “reads aloud” to the sight impaired.

Low vision is the loss of vision that can no longer be corrected by eyeglasses, medicine, or surgery. It is the third most commonly occurring impairment among people ages 70 and over, exceeded only by heart disease and arthritis. In most cases there is little that can be done medically to reverse such a loss of vision.

Devices such as the Eye-Pal Solo are provided by the LLVC at no cost to the recipients after referral to LLVC by an eye care professional. Most clients seen at LLVC are adults. They are people who, having sustained a significant vision loss, must find new ways to do necessary and favorite activities. They need to find new ways to drive, read their mail, shop, order from a menu, or even set their thermostat.

Family members are also affected by the loss or diminishment of a relative’s sight. Often they are faced with new responsibilities and concerns regarding the future of their family member.

Offering a new way to see things is important to those at LLVCs.

“The Eye-Pal Solo presented to Adrienne provides nearly instant access to print for thousands of sight-impaired seniors by reading almost anything printed,” said Jon Christensen, of Newtown Lions Club. “The previous magnifying device provided to Adrienne was not strong enough for her, so we located this reading aloud device for her.”

The new machine is the first, original camera-based reading and magnifying device produced by AbiSee. Accurate, fast, and easy to use, Eye-Pal Solo has already provided easy access to print materials — books, newspapers, magazines, mail and even cookbooks — to thousands of people with macular degeneration and other low-sight issues. The standalone device requires no special training. It is ready to use right out of the box.

The machine can also be connected to an external monitor or home television to view pictures, magnified text, or help with writing a check.

“A 20-year-old automatic coffee maker (without all the electronics they install in the new ones) is as easy to use as Eye-Pal Solo,” ABiSee promises in its materials.

The machine is also lightweight, weighing just 7 pounds.

All devices provided by the Lions Low Vision Centers are at no cost to the recipients, said Mr Christensen.

“If someone has a problem with their eyesight, they go to an eye care professional, or ECP,” said Mr Christiansen. “The ECP fills out a form, and sends it to the LLVC of the patient’s choice.”

LLVC does not take the place of an ophthalmologist. The centers offer the rehabilitation portion of eye care, however, helping people get through their day and manage activities of daily living. Clients seen at a LLVC must be under the care of an eye care professional, and must have been seen by them within the previous month.

“Once the documents are at the LLVC, the patient makes an appointment with an occupational therapist, who analyzes the needs of the patient, and then decides on the plan of action,” he continued. If a patient needs follow-up after they start using a device, they see an occupational therapist again, said Mr Christiansen.

While the devices are provided at no cost, it is important to note, said Mr Christensen, that “there is a charge for the appointment with an occupational therapist, which is typically covered by the individual’s medical insurance. Since all of our Lions Low Vision Centers are affiliated with hospitals, the charge for these appointments is handled through the normal hospital billing departments.”

Lions Low Vision Centers are administrated and operated District 23A and funded by the Lions Clubs in the District, including the Newtown Lions Club.

“The Lions provide more than 50 types of devices, all sorts of things that people can use for their low vision,” said Mr Christensen. “It’s done free of charge,” he reiterated. “We don’t charge for any of these machines.”

Individuals with low vision needing assistance should call the Lions Low Vision Centers at 866-319-9733. The nearest LLVC locations are in Danbury and Southbury; additional locations are also in Greenwich, New Haven, and Waterbury.

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