The Fayette Christian School and Fayette Bible Church recently assisted a blind member of their congregation by bringing him more independence with a small, eye-glass mounted device.
Crayton Benner, 21, was born 25 weeks premature and with detached retinas which caused permanent blindness. He was enrolled in the Ohio School for the Blind in Columbus where he attended until his sophomore year. As a junior, he decided to attend Miami Trace High School and graduated in 2017. Though he was thankful to go to the school, he said it was quite the transition.
“When I attended the School for the Blind, they had pretty much everything you could need as a blind person to succeed in school,” Benner said. “The only issue was moving to Miami Trace, it was not as easy. Many teachers worked with us to ensure that we could make copies of assignments in advance in Braille. It didn’t work all the time as maps and charts were very hard to graph and sometimes it was hard to get all of the work from the teachers early. It was a tough transition.”
Following his graduation, Benner said he felt the call of God on his life and was determined to serve Him. For several years Benner led a home Bible study in Chillicothe before he moved back to Washington Court House. It was about this time Benner joined Fayette Bible Church and began to help teach the Bible as a volunteer. Fayette Bible Church Pastor Tony Garren said they saw Benner had needs, and wanted to ensure he had everything he could use to help spread the word of God.
“They really wanted me to have everything I needed to succeed,” Benner said. “Everything had to be in Braille though and after looking into it, a Braille printer would cost every bit of $6,000 dollars looking at used and new prices. The biggest part of the Braille printer was the need for a Braille translating software which alone costs around $700 dollars. We also looked into Braille displays, but again each was pretty expensive at about $1,500 for some used and upwards of $3,000 for new, and never would have really solved the problem.”
After several discussions of what to do to assist Benner at the school, one of the teachers approached Pastor Garren and shared a new up-and-coming device that could be just the solution for the problem: the “Orcam MyEye.” Seen on such shows as the Steve Harvey Show and Dr. Phil, the Orcam MyEye device is a small, wearable assistant that can read or identify something in front of the user and talks to them accordingly. From facial recognition to the ability to point at text and it be read aloud to the user, the device has seen an increase in the United States among fully or partially blind individuals. The device also has the ability to recognize currency, is lightweight and fits easily on the side of eye glasses.
“This is not necessarily a new concept,” Benner said during an interview on Tuesday. “They have devices and apps but I find they have a few problems. The first issue was these apps usually still needed a sighted-person on the other end and if they were not available for help right away, it meant you had to wait. Second, the camera in these other devices were never really that good, and third — which is probably not an issue for everyone but is for me — is that it always required a smart phone. The Orcam is nice also because it only needs to connect to the internet for software upgrades.”
Garren explained during the interview that he and Benner took time to talk to students about the idea they had to get the device. Garren was amazed at the amount of questions the students had and he said that within two-and-a-half weeks the children and their families raised the majority of the $4,250 to purchase the device with a donation from the Fayette Bible Church and Fayette Christian School.
“We had originally called the Orcam office in New York, but they put me through to the place they produce the devices in Israel,” Garren said. “Within a week it showed up at (Benner’s) door.”
Now with a month of experience with the Orcam MyEye, Benner said it is going well. Though it took a moment of learning to use it, Benner has since been able to transition from his Braille Bible to a traditional learning Bible as often as he can. This is a massive win for him as the Braille Bible is roughly three times as large for just one of the 18 volumes it takes to make the complete Braille Bible.
Additionally, the device is incredibly good at reading margin text — something Benner said is different between this device and other devices — and is able to detect faces and read signs at distances of several feet. For example, when turned on the device was able to detect and signal to Benner that Pastor Garren was nearby when he was about five to six feet away.
“When we first heard about this, we knew we needed to help,” Garren said. “We could feel the Lord directing us and I believe in the providence of God. We knew this could help to open a ministry of assistance for those who suffer from blindness and could possibly help raise awareness about a life-changing device that could bring vision to others in the county or across the state.
“We originally thought we were the first who brought this to Ohio, but we have learned of another in Greenfield and are so thrilled to see this device impact the lives of those who need it. We are also thankful for the great homes and parents of our children who thought to help with this fundraiser and really impact Benner’s life. Additionally, we are grateful for the other schools in the community who help disabled students all the time and, without having talked to them, we thought maybe bringing awareness to this device might help some of their students as well. I also wanted to say that anyone who is seeking assistance in getting this device can call me (740-606-3562) and we are more than willing to help how we can.”
For more information about the OrCam MyEye device, visit orcam.com or contact Pastor Garren.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.
According to orcam.com, OrCam was jointly founded in 2010 by Prof. Amnon Shashua and Mr. Ziv Aviram, who are also the co-founders of Mobileye, the collision avoidance system leader and autonomous driving innovator. The original OrCam MyEye device was launched in 2015, and the next generation OrCam MyEye 2.0 was launched in 2017.