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Western University of Health Sciences and Sight Savers America provided four local students with Freedom Scientific Onyx HD Electronic Video Magnifiers (EVMs) to help them complete schoolwork and perform everyday tasks.

Sight Savers America Case Specialist Veronica Tafoya showed Pomona resident Candy Gonzalez, 14, how to use her new EVM to read a book. Candy also pointed the camera across the room to read a small sign posted on a door. They then zoomed in on the back of a penny to see the Lincoln Memorial in great detail.

Candy, who is legally blind, is reading To Kill a Mockingbird as a Village Academy High School freshman. She is thankful for receiving this donated EVM.

“I appreciate it because it will help me a lot,” she said.

Sight Savers America purchases the equipment – which is not covered by medical insurance plans – once funding is secured from donors, trains the child and their parents to use it, and places it in their home at no cost to the family. Sight Savers America will also provide extensive follow-up care until the child reaches the age of 19 to ensure the equipment is maintained and used properly. The clinic was made possible by generous funding from the Karl Kirchgessner Foundation and Vispero.

The four students who received the EVMs are all WesternU Eye Care Institute patients. When examining these children, consciously prescribing optical systems and assistive technologies that can enhance their independence, said WesternU College of Optometry Chief of Vision Rehabilitation Service Linda Pang, OD, FAAO. The electronic video magnifiers are tools that can benefit the child’s personal and academic success. By using optical systems and assistive technologies, they can perform common everyday tasks and learn alongside their sighted peers.

WesternU and Sight Savers America have partnered to provide EVMs to more than 20 local students in the past six years.

“We are dedicated to the children in our communities and actively seek resources that allow them to thrive,” Pang said. “We offer hope and reassurance to parents that a child with impaired vision can still accomplish great things if supported.”

Pomona resident Julio Andres Castro, 10, was excited to take the EVM home to help him with his homework and to read instructions and assemble his Legos. Julio has a visual pad at school, but it is bulky and they decided not to bring it home every day, said his mother, Sylvia Castro.

“Now, having this one, it’s like he has one at home and at school. I think it’s going to work out,” she said. “We believe his academic struggles are visual. We are trying to figure out how to give him the tools to be successful.”

San Bernardino resident Angela Rubio, 19, said she will use her EVM for homework and reading. She is taking classes at San Bernardino Valley College and wants to be either a baker or a nurse. Cindy Haigler, a special education liaison with the San Bernardino Unified School District, accompanied Rubio to WesternU and is helping her transition from high school into her adult life.

Haigler said she will provide Rubio with lots of reading material now that she has the EVM.

“She is so highly motivated,” Haigler said. “It’s her own motivation that’s gotten her this far. She’s planning on going places. This will help her get there.”