John “Mike” Grondin is in his first year as a vestry member at St. Peter’s in Rockland. As we serve with Mike, we are learning the challenges a visually-impaired person faces when serving on a committee. The first point of business at our meetings is to go around the table announcing our names so Mike knows who is present and where we are sitting. We have been reading minutes and agendas into a tape recorder to aid his participation in the meetings. We have also read our parish newsletter, our parish profile, special letters from Bishop Lane, proposed new policies and many other items.
It is a reasonably effective system but time-intensive, and we often end up making the recordings at the last minute before meetings. In doing research to assist my elderly mother to continue to read, I learned about assistive devices for people with low vision. I felt there must be something that would help St. Peter’s assist Mike.
After a search on the Internet and confusion with the vast array of options, I contacted The Iris Network in Portland. It is a great organization that works on behalf of people with low vision or blindness.
With Mike’s permission, I described his abilities and what he needs to improve communication and participation on committees with Iris staffer Bonnie Gouzie. Since he has never had a computer and hasn’t learned Braille because of injuries to his fingers, we agreed that he needed something that was simple and easy. Bonnie said she felt the a device called the Eye Pal Ace Plus reader might be useful, so Mike and I went to Portland to see a demonstration of the reader. In June Bonnie came to Rockland to do a formal assessment of Mike’s potential skills in using this machine. She reported that she “was amazed at how well he picked up on the concepts, was able to find the knobs and buttons, and was able to scan and read his mail!”
How does this machine work? When the machine is placed on a table, a document or, for example, a medication bottle is placed in front of the machine, a button is pressed and a photograph of the item is taken. Then the machine reads the information on the label or in the document. It can also serve as a calendar, an alarm clock, and send and receive email to preset addresses. With this machine Mike will be able to receive meeting materials and parish communications at the same time as other members.
In order to pay for the reading machine, St. Peter’s must raise $3,000. Members of St. Peter’s and friends from other community groups are working to raise funds. On Thursday, September 18, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., St. Peter’s will host a baked bean, ham and hot dog supper. Also on the menu are salads, desserts, bread, and beverages. The cost is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children under 6. Additional donations will be gratefully accepted. If we raise more than $3,000, it will go to the St. Peter’s Rector’s Discretionary Fund. Donations by check should be made out to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and in the memo line “Grondin Reading Machine.”
For additional information please contact Marty Rogers at 236-8922 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Kate Jones in the parish office—594-8191 or email@example.com or visit the St. Peter’s website at www.stpetersrockland.org.