Vision device gives blind Tampa war veteran sense of normalcy, independence

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For years, a legally blind veteran in Tampa has been defying the odds.

Lieutenant Colonel Champion was rendered blind after an improvised explosive device blew up the convoy she was riding in when she was stationed in Iraq back in July 2005. Since she was blinded that day, she’s brought home a bronze star and even competed in a triathlon where she had to run several miles, ride a bike through city streets and swim the Gulf of Mexico.

It seems like there’s nothing she can’t do. However, everyday tasks, like reading the newspaper to reading restaurant menus, have been a challenge for Lieutenant Colonel Champion.

But nowadays, thanks to new technology, the army veteran feels more at ease about her vision.

Lieutenant Colonel Champion was fitted with a new device called the OrCam. According to an informational video, the OrCam is an “intuitive and portable device mounted on eyeglasses that recognizes text and objects and speaks to the wearer through a discrete bone conduction earpiece.”

Lieutenant Colonel Champion was given the device free of charge through the Wounded Warrior Project and she learned how it worked at Congressman Gus Bilirakis’ Tarpon Springs headquarters.

“That luxury may sound trivial to most people but to someone who is visual impaired or blind, It is heaven on earth to have that little bit of normalcy in your life,” Lieutenant Colonel Champion said.

The army veteran and the congressman sat together at a very long conference table and both learned how to use the cam. Bilirakis sees the device as a game-changer for Lieutenant colonel Champion and other veterans.

“Veterans are very special people and they are extraordinary and true American heroes and they have sacrificed very much and we got to help them in any way to help their quality of life better. And that’s what this device does,” said Congressman Bilirakis.

The OrCam also has a feature that recognizes and stores faces, so now when Lieutenant colonel Champion is out and about she can do everything from read magazines, order from restaurant menus and even recognize friends in a crowd.


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