SAN ANTONIO – Picture yourself having to lay down in order to read a piece of paper. That’s what 8-year-old Natalie Rodríguez does daily to get things done.
According to Rodríguez, life has been somewhat of a blur.
“It’s like, little things. I can’t see little (things),” Rodríguez said.
Rodríguez was diagnosed with a severe visual impairment known as bilateral coloboma. Doctors explained to her mother, Jennifer Parra, that the condition was developed in the womb.
"Some kids are born with keyhole shapes in their eyes," Parra said. "Some of them, like her, don't have that. It was in the back of her eye. So, basically, (the eye is) not all the way attached."
Her condition prevents Rodríguez from common activities her age including sports. Her severe visual impairment has also affected her academic level.
"I can't see books (in the library), but I don't know how to read," Rodríguez said. "I can't really see."
Without being able to see, keeping up with her second-grade homework is tough.
“I have to write out every single thing of her homework,” Parra said.
Rodríguez struggles to see the blue lines in a notebook.
“I have to get a separate sheet of paper and (draw) them out so she can see better and darker printing instead of the the light blue on the actual paper.”
Through funding from The Greehey Family Foundation, The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation and Vispero, a nonprofit organization, Sight Savers America plans to help children and adults with severe visual impairments like Rodríguez.
On Thursday morning, a total of 11 people, including Rodríguez, received donated Onyx Electronic Video Magnifiers or EVMs from Sight Savers America.
Each recipient was evaluated at the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry and the Bowden Eye Care and Health Institute. Low vision optometrists worked together to identify each individual.
Rodríguez is part of Sight Savers America’s Children’s Low Vision Program. The non-profit also offers help to adults who qualify.
Rodríguez's elementary school has a smaller version of the device and is familiar with how to use it.
EVMs dramatically enhance, contrast and magnifies objects more than 100 times, allowing those who use them to accomplish daily tasks, to read, write and see faces clearly.
The assistive technology will allow people like Rodríguez to make the most of their remaining vision and accomplish their goals. For Rodríguez, her goal is clear.
“I want to read a book, chapter books,” Rodríguez said.
To learn more about Sight Savers of America, visit its website here.