Roanoke center brings help for the visually impaired - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Roanoke center brings help for the visually impaired

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For the last 28 years Dennis Helms has been working for the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired, helping clients get equipment that can help them with day-to-day life.

"We can't bring back your vision, we can't make that better," he said. "But we can make your life much more enjoyable."

Helms practices what he preaches.

He is blind and uses many of the devices he connects clients with daily.

Like Jaws, a computer program that reads e-mails and web pages out loud.

It even translates text to braille, which thanks to a special printer Helms can print out and read.

When on the go he also uses a braille operated device which may be best described as a modified iPad.

"It's like a mini-computer and it weighs less than a pound," Helms said. "I can write notes, it writes in electronic brail and it also speaks while I'm writing."

"There are very few barriers now," said Steve Surratt, a rehabilitation engineer with the department.

His job is to design and improve the technology available to those who are blind or visually impaired.

"It's gone from stand alone scanners which have been around for some time, to even a few apps on for instance the iPhone that can scan and read text," he said.

But like Helms, Surratt's goal is to get the technology into the hands of people who need it.

"A lot of people simply don't know that this technology is available and that it can help them," he said.

Those who qualify can get financial assistance with many of the devices.

To find out if you qualify you can contact the Roanoke office at 540-561-7442 or Dennis Helms directly at 540-561-7454.