Tulsa hosted the 74th annual Blinded Veterans Association convention this week.
Marine Corps vet Rae Hail was injured during a Vietnam ambush and gradually lost his sight afterward. He's been blind for about 30 years now.
Hail said blindness robs veterans of their independence, making seemingly small things like dealing with money difficult.
"You become accustomed to not carrying more than a $20 bill on you because you can’t tell. You can’t tell what you’re getting back in change. You know what you’re giving folks, and people make honest mistakes. Sometimes, it’s not so honest," Hail said.
Hail said the convention is a good way for BVA's 7,200 members — or any veteran — to get the latest information on services. It’s also an opportunity for them to try out new assistive technology.
OrCam Western U.S. Regional Manager Anat Nulman was there showing veterans the MyEye 2, a wearable device that reads printed and digital text, identifies products and money, and recognizes faces in real time. Nulman said the MyEye helps blinded veterans reclaim their lost independence.
"One of the challenges that people experience when they experience vision loss is loss of that ability to make their own decisions and access information, especially on the go," Nulman said.
Nulman said the MyEye can also help people with dyslexia or impairments from traumatic brain injuries.
Hail uses MyEye 2. The finger-sized device clips to his sunglasses and translates visual information to audio.
Hail encouraged veterans suffering vision loss to contact the VA, even if they don’t consider it service-related.
"There’s this big group out there that don’t even access, and we know they’re there. We run into them. We try to develop strategies as volunteers to figure out ways to reach out to them," Hail said.