A college-going football fan who lost his sight due to a rare birth condition is making use of the latest wearable technology to help him overcome his disability, thanks to a generous donation.
Lee Harding, 23, of Langley Terrace in Jarrow, is able to ‘read’ again and recognise friendly faces thanks to the OrCam MyEye device, which uses text and facial recognition and informs the user of what its cameras see through recorded speech.
The equipment was funded through a grant from Haltwhistle-based Kilfrost Ltd as part of its commitment to supporting the disadvantaged in the local community.
Lee’s mum Terri, 47, said they were “hugely grateful” for the donation, and said the equipment had improved her son’s confidence and independence.
“It’s made a massive difference,” she said. “Until three or four years ago he could only read print if it was in massive type, but since then he’s had no vision at all.
“Now for the first time he’s able to read the sports pages in his lunch break at college, and he no longer has to have constant one-to-one tuition.
“The new kit has made him a lot more independent and he can’t stop telling everyone about it.”
When he was three months old, Lee’s heart stopped for seven minutes and the oxygen starvation affected his vision. It was later diagnosed as Alström Syndrome, a condition Lee’s brother also lived with until he sadly passed away just over two years ago.
The OrCam MyEye headset uses technology that allows the camera to recognise faces, speaking the names to Lee, and can identify important objects such as medications and creams. When text is placed in front of the camera, it reads it out as it’s scanned.
“He absolutely loves it,” said Terri. “For the first time he can go to the library and borrow proper books. He also enjoys cooking and the kit will read out the recipes to him.”
Kilfrost was approached by Heather Niven, a volunteer with women’s voluntary organisation Soroptimist International. Its Newcastle upon Tyne branch members work with the Gateshead College Project Choice course to provide job interview skills and practice to young people, including Lee.
Heather said: “He is a very bright lad and has such a positive personality. He’s really well motivated and going to great efforts to overcome his disability, so it’s fantastic the donation has been made and that he’s able to put the equipment to such good use.”
Gary Lydiate, Kilfrost Chif Executive, said: “We’re delighted that the technology is making such a difference to Lee’s life, and that we were able to help following the approach by Heather.
“As a family business, we are great believers in giving something back to the community, whether this is directly through our own involvement in projects or by supporting those who are best placed to help those in need.”
For further information, please visit www.kilfrost.com, call +44 1434 320 332 or email firstname.lastname@example.org