Chris Ward, a 12-year-old fifth-grader from Bedford County, Va., was born with optic nerve hypoplasia, a condition that limits his vision to objects within just 5 inches of his face. He's learned to read Braille and do math using an abacus. But when his mother and teacher took him to Washington, DC, to test out a high-tech gadget called eSight, the boy was able to see for the first time. Marquita Hackley, his mother, says she couldn't help herself and "just broke down and cried," she tells WDBJ7. "It was just amazing because he's never been able to see details like that." But that's not what stood out to Chris. "When I saw my mom for the first time, she was pretty," he says.
The gadget's hands-free headset resembles large black goggles and houses a tiny, high-speed camera that films whatever is in the user's line of vision. The footage is live-streamed to a computer, where special software manipulates and enhances pixels that are ultimately displayed on the headset's LED screens. eSight says it all happens so fast there isn't even an image lag, and suddenly people like Chris, who has never seen the blackboard, have midrange and long-range vision. Unfortunately, insurance won't cover the $15,000 electronic glasses, but that won't hold Chris back: Hackley has set up a YouCaring page that has already topped $25,000 in donations as of this writing. "The messages that we've gotten on Facebook and emails ... it's just been amazing," she tells WRIC. "All to help the little guy with the big personality achieve his dream of sight." (See why this woman made herself blind.)