Of the Baker City Herald

People in Baker County with visual impairments have a new weapon in their arsenal against the dark with the installation of a Video Eye machine at the Community Connections Senior Center, 2810 Cedar St.

The machine, donated by the Baker City Lions Club, is equipped with a camera that allows those with poor eyesight to enlarge printed material and photographs and project them onto a monitor.

The device, which cost $2,600, is available for use by anyone in the community. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no charge to use the machine.

Its not just for elderly people, we want to see it in use by more and more people, said former president of the Lions Club, Vickie Cunningham. She said the device was easy to use, self focusing, and able to reverse colors. It is sometimes helpful to change black letters on a white background to white on black for some people. She said the machine was real user-friendly.

The Lions wanted to make sure the device was available for use by everyone in the community. Previous efforts by the organization to provide devices for the use of the visually challenged in Baker City have less than successful.

According to Leon Allgire, a disability advocate and himself visually impaired, over the years the devices have been loaned out and not returned. Having the Video Eye at the center will increase its security and guarantee its availability to anyone who wishes to use it.

Rick Taylor, president of Lions, said the unit located in the Senior Center provides a place for people to read, play games, read cards and letters and view photographs of family and friends that they wouldnt be able to do without the Video Eye.

It would be wonderful if we needed to purchase another unit because so many people used this one, Cunningham said. It took about one month to have the unit delivered from Boise were it was manufactured.

Lions help those in need

The Video Eye was purchased by the club with funds from its regular donations. The organization is especially supportive of people with visual and hearing impairments as well as youth in the community.

The Lions Club raises funds all year round to help buy eyeglasses, hearing aids and devices that help people function in the community.

Taylor said the organization has about 50 members and are always looking for people with an interest in community improvement activities.

Its more than just paying your dues, he said of members who work hard to raise funds for youth activities and other Lions projects.

Allgire, a newcomer to Baker City, demonstrated the use of the device. He said he will probably come in at least twice a week to use it.

Its very, very easy to use, he said and compares it to two tin cans connected by a string verses the modern telephone in its technology. It will even enlarge newsprint. Newsprint, because of the bleed of ink through the paper, is difficult to process through other types of reading devices.

The device can also be used as a mirror. Many people with visually impairments are not able to see themselves and the device can be set to show them what they look like. It is very helpful for women who wish to adjust their make-up.

Allgire said the Oregon Health Plan does not assist the visually or hearing impaired in paying for such devices to help them. Organizations like the Lions and foundations can provide the devices, but many people are not aware of this and may not apply for the devices.

He added that there was no longer a representative in Eastern Oregon for the Commission for the Blind and he has become active in providing information and assistance to the visually impaired in Baker County. He can be reached by calling 523-4242.

Video Eye adds to center

Mary Jo Carpenter, the manager of the Community Connection program in Baker County, said the addition of the Video Eye to the centers library room is something we wanted to do for a long time and finally found the right partners with the V.I.P. Club (a local support group) and the Lions.

Carpenter was especially pleased to be able to provide the device because her mother, Lena Frericks of Baker City, is also visually impaired. My mom has macular degeneration and what a benefit her reader has been! She added that her mother often used her personally-owned device to read recipes.

Thats what she missed the most, being able to read greeting cards, read recipes, magazines and newspapers and look at photographs of the family, she said.