A gift of independence

Lisle Meeker (left) of the Temple Breakfast Lions Club presents Janelle Ramirez (right) with an OrCam device that assists visually impaired people with reading, identifying people and objects, and mobility. Janelle is diabetic and has experienced severe vision loss in the past few years and now she is blind. Her dad, Joe Ramirez also in pictured. David Stone photo

Local Lions Club gifts woman with an artificial intelligence device that will assist her with ‘reading’ and mobility


Janelle Ramirez regained some independence this morning thanks to a gift from the Temple Breakfast Lions Club.

Janelle, a former night stocker at H-E-B, is blind. She sees light, but can’t make out faces or objects, read or get around on her own.

“I’m diabetic, and my vision loss started about four years ago,” she said this morning. “It’s gotten progressively worse — I miss my independence, and I’m more than excited about this gift.”

The gift was an OrCam, a device that allows visually impaired people to understand text and identify objects through audio feedback that describes what the person is unable to see.

The OrCam is a form of artificial intelligence — similar to a highly advanced Siri — that can be held or fitted to glasses. The device uses a camera and audio to help a visually impaired person “read” and increase their mobility.

“I had the chance to use a similar device at Northwest Hills Eye Care in Round Rock,” Janelle said. “It can be programmed to recognize faces and colors, and it even lets you know if there are lights on in a room.”

“I’m so appreciative of the Lions Club,” she said. “This will let me be more independent — I’ll be able to read my own mail. This is great technology.”

“It talks to you and tells you what’s in front of you,” she said.

According to Joe Ramirez, Janelle’s dad, she has been interested in the OrCam for several months, especially after trying it out during a doctor’s visit.

Lisle Meeker and other members of the Temple Breakfast Lions Club surprised Janelle with the gift during today’s early morning meeting at Hilton Garden Inn.

“We got some information about the OrCam during a doctor’s visit,” Joe said. “Janelle has talked about it, and it is a huge benefit, but we just couldn’t afford it. They start at around $4,000 and go up.”

“This will definitely give her more independence,” he said. “When we go somewhere, she has to put her hands on my shoulder and I lead her. I have to alert her to turns, steps, stops. I am her eyes. With this device, she will have the opportunity to walk unassisted. This can be life changing for blind people.”

Joe met Lisle about two years ago at an American Legion event.

“Over the years, Lisle became aware of Janelle’s situation,” Joe said. “We’ve talked about it, and I asked him once if he knew anything about the OrCam.”

Lisle said the Temple Breakfast Lions Club is always looking at the community to identify ways of being of service to local residents, like helping Janelle become more independent.

“Lions were charged in 1925 by Helen Keller as Knights of the Blind,” he said. “We have five global causes: vision, hunger, environment, childhood diabetes and childhood cancer. We strive to address all five every year.”

“The opportunity to help Janelle was brought to our attention, and we researched how we could be of assistance. We were able to answer the call and help her. The technologies today for the visually impaired are amazing.”

This promotional photo shows the OrCam mounted to a pair of glasses. The device is outfitted with a camera and audio technology that acts as a visually impaired persons eyes. Basically, the OrCam reads to the person and can help them get around with more independence.

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