Zoe Hanscombe was diagnosed with retinoblastoma when she was 5 months old. She shares her experience of using the OrCam My Reader…

I was born in summer of 1976 and at 5 months old it was discovered I had bilateral retinoblastoma. I had my left eye removed and external radiotherapy treatment on my right eye. The radiotherapy caused a cataract in my right eye, and back then they did not replace the lens in my eye so I am registered blind.

I need to wear strong magnified everyday glasses and special button reading glasses to help me live my life as independently as I can. As I’ve got older I’m becoming more sensitive to natural light as well as artificial lighting, so I now wear wrap around sunglasses all the time indoors and outside all through the year.

I help run a group of visually impaired adults that want to meet up and chat and do different activities together.

I heard about a device called OrCam My Reader that is like a micro scanner that brackets onto a pair of glasses and scans text then discreetly dictates the text it scans into an ear piece, I wanted to find out more so I invited Louise Reed from OrCam UK to come and demonstrate it to my group.

The device comes with brackets that can be fixed to most glasses, so if you have prescription glasses you can have your device attached to them or if you don’t normally wear glasses, a plain lens pair of glasses can be provided. The control unit is just a bit bigger then an iPhone, it contains the battery supply, main menu operator, volume control and on / off button.

You can learn different hand movements that enable you to control your OrCam My Reader, so for instance, if you want it to stop reading the text you can either press the button on the control unit or place your hand in front of your face and move it forward in a stop motion.

I was very excited about this device as I could see how much it was going to be able to help me. The OrCam My Reader isn’t cheap, it’s about £2,000, so I started crowd funding and asking family and friends to help me raise the money.

It does take patience and time to get things working smoothly for you; I carry my OrCam My Reader around with me where ever I go. I can now read menus in restaurants, signs on doors, road work signs, street signs, shop fronts, labels on clothes.

The thing to remember is, whether you have some useful sight or no sight at all, it works by you facing the text you want read. I can’t see text of any size on a piece of paper but if I hold that paper as if I was reading it like a fully sighted person, the Orcam My Reader will scan the text and read it to me.

My OrCam has given me a new bit of independence and I am so grateful to CHECT for helping me raise funds I needed to purchase it.

This article first appeared in In Focus Autumn/Winter 2017