Special glasses enhance legally blind Winnipegger Steven Stairs' vision

Steven Stairs is legally blind but the gift of a pair of eSight glasses is enhancing his vision and allowing him to see things he never thought he'd see.

'Like someone who was never good at running … winning an Olympic medal at the 100-metre dash'

Legally blind Winnipegger Steven Stairs holds up his eSight glasses, which enhance his vision. (Justin Deeley)

A legally blind Winnipeg man is getting a new perspective on life through a pair of high-tech glasses.

"I put them on and looked out the window and realized, 'Wow! I can see the licence plate of the car across the street,'" Steven Stairs said.

"Before I couldn't even tell if the car had a licence plate."

Stairs is legally blind and has about eight per cent of the vision of someone with 20/20 eyesight. He has three genetic eye diseases that are all degenerative, so he never expected his vision to improve.

Steve Stairs talks about his new eSight glasses in a CBC studio. The glasses feature cameras, high-definition screens and a video processor to capture and enhance real-time video.

His new glasses are manufactured by a Canadian company called eSight. The $15,000 device features a camera, high-definition screens and a video processor to capture and enhance real-time video.

For Stairs, the technology is a game-changer.

"It's kind of like someone who was never good at running all of a sudden winning an Olympic medal at the 100-metre dash," said Stairs.

Stairs first tried the glasses in October 2014 and was impressed. He tries raising money for them through a Gofundme campaign, but had limited success.

In the end, however, Stairs was gifted a set by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Equipped with HD cameras

The unit looks like a bulky pair of sunglasses but each lens is equipped with an HD camera.

The cameras work together to form a single image, and a console allows Stairs to control the colours, contrast and magnification of an image.

The new eSight glasses will take some time to get used to, said Stairs, noting that even slight movements can affect the image.

"When you're looking at something far away at a zoom-in, you can't just turn your head a little bit to look at something different. If you do, you're looking at something completely different: you may be looking at a building now instead of a tree … so I've got to get used to the head movements," he said.

The eSight glasses could also create more employment opportunities for Stairs, who is limited by his vision loss.

He said he is looking forward to a more visual experience on outings with friends and family and the possibility of seeing the stars.