Precious gift ‘working wonders’
Wearing shaded wrap-around eyeglasses, Josh MacDonald operates a hand-held control as he watches TV. A computerized voice says, “2.5.” It may appear as if he playing a virtual video game. But in fact the 39-year-old Alexandria man is using a precious device that has made a very real improvement in his life.
The “2.5” figure refers to the degree of magnification the pair of eSight electronic glasses is projecting on a tiny display screen directly in front of his eyes.
While he jokes about the content of an after- noon soap opera he is viewing, Mr. MacDonald says he is delighted that he can sit on the couch and clearly see the screen. For most of his life, if he wanted to watch a television program, he would have to almost press his face up against the set.
“The e-glasses are working wonders for me. They are facilitating watching TV, better than I have ever been able to imagine,” says Mr. MacDonald, who has been visually impaired since birth.
He expresses his gratitude to the public and the Alexandria and District Lions Club for making “his quest to see” a reality.
“The community has been fantastic,” states Michel Depratto, president of the club whose fund-raising campaign netted the $12,500 needed for Mr. MacDonald to acquire the eglasses.
He began testing the equipment in June, even though he was not sure whether he would ever be able to afford to buy the eglasses.
Because of his visual impairment, Mr. MacDonald, who also has epilepsy, receives help under the Ontario Disability Support Program.
But no assistance is available under any government program to help him purchase the electronic spectacles.
After reading about Josh's need for funding in The Glengarry News, Mr. Depratto with the help of Lion members Pierre Burelle, Marc Leblanc, and Gaetan Ravary, initiated the drive.
“We knew we were taking a gamble,” recalls Mr. Depratto. The $12,500 objective was ambitious considering the club’s most successful fund-raising effort would usually bring in $5,000.
“But we decided to give it a try. The community came through,” says Mr. Depratto.
The club acknowledges the “individuals and the businesses for their generous donations that have helped us pursue this lofty and time sensitive goal. This project has tremendously improved Josh's quality of life by providing him with the gift of sight.”
Helping the visually impaired is a key mandate of Lions International. The biggest payback is that “Josh seems to be happy,” says Mr. Depratto. Mr. MacDonald remarks he has been faced with the pleasant task of adapting to a sharper perspective on the world. “I’ve been looking at things the same way for 39 years, so it may take a few months for me to adjust to seeing things more clearly,” he says. Mr. MacDonald’s left eye was removed due to an infection when he was three months old. He has a nystagmus in his right eye. When he first put on e-glasses earlier this year, his visual acuity was four times better.
“Growing up, I have not participated in sports, been allowed to go out on walks by myself, drive a car, or feel as though I have had much of a “normal” life, as com- pared to sighted kids my age, both in school and in my community,” he told The News.
He had always been told that eyeglasses would not help him. But three years ago, local optometrist, Dr. Joshua Smith, mentioned that glasses may be beneficial. The electronic glasses consist of a camera, display technology and advanced computing that deliver real-time video to the user’s eyes. When he put on the device, “Wow! They helped me. I could see a little more.”
EVERYTHING MUST GO: Demolition of the former Alexandria Home Furnishings on Alexandria’s Main Street was carried out last week, about a year after the business operated by the Ranger family since 1965 closed down.
HI-TECH VISION: Josh MacDonald’s eyesight has been sharply improved since, with the help of a fund-raising drive, he was able to obtain a pair of electronic eyeglasses
FANTASTIC SUPPORT: Back row, from left: Alexandria and District Lions Club President Michel Depratto, Lion Pierre Burelle; front row, Lion Gaetan Ravary, Josh MacDonald and Lion Marc Leblanc.