July 20, 1997

Media Contacts: Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 -
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 -

ATLANTA - Frances W. Bennett, 79, does not let much get in her way when it comes to playing bridge. Not even a blinding eye disease.

When glasses, eye surgery and laser treatment did not improve her vision for playing cards or many of her daily activities, Mrs. Bennett came to the Low Vision Clinic at the Emory Eye Center for help. This great-grandmother is one of the first visually impaired people in the United States using a self-focusing bioptic telescope to enhance her vision. Emory is one of only a dozen sites in the country and the only center in the state prescribing this revolutionary device.

According to Ned Witkin, O.D., an optometrist and director of Emory's Low Vision Clinic, "The bioptic telescope, called the Ocutech VESTM AutoFocus Telescope, is perfect for Mrs. Bennett. It is portable and light-weight, yet it automatically magnifies images to four times normal size when looking at an object at a distance and five times normal size in close range.

Mrs. Bennett has been visually disabled for two years from macular degeneration, which causes a gradual loss of central vision. Even with laser treatment, she eventually found that she could no longer focus on her cards, even in strong light. She could not read the newspaper, write checks or recognize faces close up.

"My regular glasses don't help too much -- it's like looking through a fog," Mrs. Bennett said.

The first bioptic telescope of its kind, the Ocutech device uses a small, 4-ounce battery that can be carried in a pocket and lasts 12 hours on a charge.

"The major benefit of this bioptic telescope is its lens focuses immediately on whatever you're looking at," said Dr. Witkin. "It's like a self-focusing camera, but much more precise."

The Ocutech telescope looks like a standard pair of glasses with a small telescope attached to the top of the frames. Wearers can read grocery store price tags, blackboards at school, road signs and computer screens without having to manually focus the lens It is easy to use and can be prescribed for individuals of all ages with macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts and other blinding diseases.

While wearing her Ocutech telescope, Mrs. Bennett no longer has the other bridge players call out the cards to her. She uses the device for close-up work, such as writing letters and using her adding machine while paying taxes and bills.

"Even though my bank gave me large checks with raised lines, I can now focus on the figures," she reports.

A resident of Conyers, Ga., she has two daughters, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences News and Information at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to

Copyright ©Emory University, 1997. All Rights Reserved.
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