High-tech devices help disabled get back lives

By Brent Hopkins

For $110, the blind can see. For $6,800, the mute can speak.

At the California State University, Northridge, Technology and Persons With Disabilities Conference, wheelchairs rolled through crowded exhibit halls while red-tipped white canes tapped their sightless holders through a sea of people. The six-day exposition, which runs through Saturday, has drawn medical professionals, manufacturers, educators and those simply hoping to improve their quality of life.

“This is a lifesaver,” said Fran Mero, a Lancaster resident who works in a blind persons assistance program, peering through a powerful monocular. “I can read again! My vision’s only about 2 feet, so I have to rely on other people. Now, I can rely on myself.” She’s had limited vision her entire life, seeing the same things at 20 feet most people can see 300 feet away. Slowly focusing the metal grip of the 6×16 magnifier, she could make out signs and read posters across the room. What began as fuzzy orange blobs became letters, then words, then sentences. She was soon reaching for her wallet, ready to buy the device that gave her normal vision once again.

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