A blind veteran is regaining his independence after being given a cutting edge piece of equipment by a sight loss charity…

Rod MacLaren, of Auchterarder, was diagnosed with Stargardt disease in 1994. The genetic condition had severely deteriorated his central vision.

For the past two decades the retired farm worker, aged 83, has adapted well to his diminishing eyesight. Then last year he found that he was beginning to rely more and more on his friends and family for help.

But now Rod is regaining his independence after being presented with an OrCam MyEye by sight loss charity Scottish War Blinded. The futuristic gadget is a discreet camera which is fixed to the arm of a pair of glasses and can turn text into speech at the click of a button, reading it aloud to the wearer. With the help of the device, Rod is able to read even small text.

“It’s a fantastic gadget and it makes a big difference to the day-to-day,” said Rod. “I can read letters, pick out an audiobook at the library and go to the supermarket to do my shopping without help.

“I have lived here for the past 18 years so I know my way around. But last year I was getting to the stage where I needed someone to accompany me to the supermarket to help pick out the products and tell me what they were. I would come back with the wrong items which was frustrating. I was really relying on the help of strangers.”

The OrCam was suggested by Scottish War Blinded outreach worker for Perth and Kinross, Marjory Kirkwood. She said: “I’m very pleased with how the OrCam has helped Rod so far. He’s an extremely thoughtful and independent gentleman who is very active in his community. He truly deserves this piece of equipment.”

Now Rod can once again read letters, visit the supermarket and pick up audiobooks from the library. A keen baker, he is able to read recipes and can keep up his yearly tradition of cooking Christmas dinner for his elderly neighbours.

Scottish War Blinded also gave Rod some talking scales to help with his kitchen creations.

Rod added: “When I was first told about the OrCam I thought it wouldn’t be for me – I thought it would be a great big thing. But I was sold on it as soon as I had the demonstration. It’s incredibly clever and very easy to use.

“I think people can be wary of technology like this and think it won’t suit them. But I think you just have to give these things a go. It’s difficult when you start to lose your sight so it’s important to reach out to support groups and charities like Scottish War Blinded. The support makes life so much easier.”