Tom Aldridge of Concord, North Carolina, is a typical 61 year-old macular degeneration patient. He began losing his vision in 1986 and was legally blind two years later. Tom was resigned to a life in which he could only distinguish the faces of his grandchildren if he stood within a few feet and looked with his side vision.
Then, in 1996, Tom was shown a newspaper article that described how the Center for Vision Rehabilitation in Durham was treating macular degeneration patients with a new AutoFocus Telescope, specially designed for the visually impaired. This computer-controlled, battery-powered miniature telescope sits atop a pair of eyeglasses and magnifies objects four times their usual size. The 2.5 oz. device, like an autofocus camera, sends out an infrared beam that bounces off the object being viewed and triggers a computer chip that calculates the distance to the object. A motor the size of a child’s fingernail focuses the lens, and the entire process happens within a third of a second.
After Tom spoke with his ophthalmologist about the AutoFocus Telescope, Tom’s doctor called the Center for Vision Rehabilitation. After a 45-minute telephone interview with the Center’s Dr. Henry Greene, Tom scheduled an appointment for an evaluation. Since Tom qualified for, responded well to, and now wears the AutoFocus Telescope, his life hasn’t been quite the same.
One of Tom’s passions is feeding wild birds, and it has been many years since he’s been able to see the birds in his backyard. Thanks to the AutoFocus Telescope, Tom can now tell a cardinal from a bluejay. And when he isn’t birding, Tom can now recline in his easy chair to watch his favorite team compete, instead of sitting within two feet of his television.
Most satisfying of all, Tom can now focus on each one of his rambunctious grandchildren and watch them grow. And that makes a grandfather very proud.