This past month has been nothing short of miraculous in the personal and professional life of K.C. Ryder, a resident of the Mulberry community.
Legally blind since age 19, Ryder acquired a pair of eSight 3 electronic glasses in January and now reads with 20/20 acuity. Simply looking out her living room window is now a revelatory experience.
“I was sitting on the couch, looking out the window, and I could see the ridges of the bark on the tree, something I haven’t been able to do since I was 18 or 19,” she said. “I could see the shape of a maple leaf. That was very exciting.”
The eSight glasses has also had a major impact on her work productivity. She works out of her home as a communications engineer for Lockheed Martin, an aerospace and defense company based in Bethesda, Md.
“I’ve been able to take my computer screen from 14x magnification down to 7x, so that twice as much is on the screen,” she said. She has used adaptive applications and software to stay employed in the information technology field for the past 36 years.
Since acquiring the glasses, Ryder has made one payment on the company’s rent-to-own program. But, as she says, “every great technology unfortunately comes with a price tag that’s more than a little out of my range.” She has set a fundraising goal of $4,500 which would pay for the glasses in full.
“I’d like to thank (the donors) so much for enabling me instead of disabling me,” she said, and asks potential donors to “please join me on my journey to newly seeable possibilities and a whole new world.”
A “handicapable” life
Ryder was born in Colorado and spent much of her life in that state. She lost her central vision to macular degeneration when she was 19 and is now losing her peripheral vision to cone rod dystrophy.
She earned a bachelor’s of science degree in statistics and computer science from Arizona State University, and master’s degrees in project management from Villanova University and telecommunications technology from the University of Denver.
K.C. and her husband, Michael Ryder, moved to Mulberry in September 2015. “We had some friends here we’d come visit, and we fell in love with North Carolina,” she said. “We enjoy camping and all the outdoor activities like hiking and horseback riding.”
She noted their love of gardening, something they couldn’t do at 9,100 feet of elevation in Colorado. “(Gardening) was very much an attraction to us. But, you know, we’re mountain people and we’re still in the foothills of the mountains.”
Ryder said that what little vision she had was severely impacted and compounded with the diagnoses of macular degeneration and cone rod dystrophy. “I thank God for all I have experienced and prayed as hard as I could for things to get better. I’ve explored the medical options and the inherent risks that come with it. Nothing is guaranteed and I don’t want to completely ‘fade to black’ as my son describes it.”
She said her prayers were answered when she used the eSight glasses for the first time. The glasses have enabled her to finally do everyday tasks like cooking, reading a menu, reviewing a bill, and writing with pen on paper.
“A lot of people think being blind means you are disabled, but I am not,” noted Ryder. “I am handicapable, or at least that is what people have told me. For as long as I can remember I’ve always strived to not let my sight hold me back from anything personally and professionally.”
After moving to Wilkes, she developed a friendship with Christy Poteat, also a resident of Mulberry who has been legally blind since birth. Poteat raised over $20,000 in just 17 days last summer to purchase two pair of the eSight glasses, one for herself and another for an 8-year-old girl in Davie County who is visually impaired.
The third-generation eSight glasses weigh less than 4 ounces and are operated by a handheld wired remote. The high-contrast images captured by cameras in the glasses are displayed on OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screens that sit very close to the user’s eyes and within the framework of the glasses.