Our stories

Ruby's a gem!

Ruby Wood has lived in the same Melbourne house for almost 60 years. When she was declared legally blind in 2005 due to age-related macular degeneration, the 86-year-old feared she would have to move: "I didn't want to go. I didn't want to lose my independence."

"I had a little peripheral vision so could still get about and do my things," she says.

"The worst thing was that I couldn't read. I would go down to the club to ask a friend to read my bills and letters, or I had to get my neighbour to help," she says. "My son and daughter live about 50 minutes away, so they can't be here every day."

Vision Australia has adapted Ruby's house to make it easier for her to live there. We placed white non-slip strips along her back steps for better visibility and put tactile markers on her stove so she can feel the settings - little things that have made a big difference.

We also provided Ruby with a large-face watch, a large-button phone and liquid level, a gadget that tells her when a cup is full.

But her favourite piece of equipment is the closed-circuit television (CCTV) that Vision Australia installed for her in late 2006. Ruby simply places text - be it on a medicine bottle or in a book - on a plate and the image is displayed on a monitor at eye level.

"The Meals on Wheels lady would read different things or look up postcodes for me so I could send letters out or see how much I owed. I'd go to my sister's house to stay and she'd read to me - mainly magazines. One night she read out a letter from a woman who is legally blind but could read the magazine using a CCTV. I was delighted so I asked about one at Vision Australia," she says.

"I was amazed I could read again. It's changed my lifestyle. I'm more independent now - that was the worst thing about macular degeneration. I could do most things with effort, but I found it very hard to read the labels on my medicine bottles.

"Now I have no problems at all. I'm always putting something under the glass. It really made a tremendous difference to my life," she says. "I was so pleased I could look up my friends' addresses to send them Christmas cards without any help".

Ruby works on the committee of her local club, and now can read a lot of the administrative material in large print.

"I'm very, very grateful to Vision Australia and all the dedicated and caring people associated with it."

Ruby is determined to help spread the word about the services and equipment Vision Australia can offer other elderly people.

"I think you have to make the effort," she says. "You can't just say 'I can't do it. It's difficult.' You need determination and want to be helped. Then you can achieve anything you set out to do. In my case, I can stay here now and look after myself."

Earlier this year she spoke at the Vision Australia Kooyong launch of ROTAting CCTVs about how we helped her to obtain and use a pre-loved CCTV. ROTAting CCTVs, a joint project with the Rotary Club of Prahran, aims to create a borrowing system for recycled CCTVs.

Prahran Rotary Club was recently received a Vision Australia Making A Difference Award for its work on this project.

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