Seeing, through technology

Donation of assistive reading machine by Truro legion provides senior with ability to read again

Published on March 15, 2017

After more than 15 years of only being able to read with a hand-held magnifier, Alan MacPherson of Truro can once again read newspapers and other materials thanks to the donation of an assistive reading machine from Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26.

©Harry Sullivan/TC Media

TRURO, N.S. – Standing less than a metre away, Alan MacPherson looks straight at his visitor and sees nothing but a blur.

“I can’t see your face and I’m standing here right in front of you,” the 80-year-old Truro resident says.

“I see all around this room. But you’ll notice the only clock you’ll see in the house is this big one,” he says, of the round wall clock with its big, bold numbers.

“I can’t see any of the stuff here unless I take the pictures off the wall and hold them up here,” he said, putting his hands up close to his eyes. “I can see all around. It’s detail I can’t see.”

And that’s the way it’s been for more than 15 years after a sudden onset of macular degeneration robbed MacPherson of his sight while he slept.

“I went to bed reading the Truro Daily News at 12 o’clock at night and got up the next morning about 7 o’clock and couldn’t see the pictures on the wall and couldn’t see my late, great wife’s face,” he said.

“It happened just that quick.”

MacPherson has essentially lived alone since the passing of his wife Gloria in 2011. But, whether through sheer stubbornness or a fierce sense of independence, he has not let his near-complete blindness take away his ability to be self-sufficient.

“I do everything for myself,” MacPherson said. “Home care comes in to see I don’t fall in the shower because my legs aren’t the best anymore. But they don’t have to do anything else. They don’t have to cook for me. I cook and bake. I make my own beds.  I clean my own apartment. I do my own dishes, everything I do myself.”

What his loss of eyesight has done, however, is take away his ability to read, except through the very limited and inconvenient use of a hand-held magnifier. And that, he said, has been especially troubling for him over the last 15-plus years.

“I’m a news freak, eh,” he said, going on to explain his love for keeping on top of local events, politics and so forth.

As one of strong religious faith, MacPherson also likes to study the Bible, something he has only been able to do since becoming blind by listening to a CD-recorded version.

A $3,000 assistive reading machine that was recently donated by Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26 to Truro senior Alan MacPherson has enabled him to read again after he lost his eyesight more than 15 years ago to macular degeneration. From left, MacPherson, legion president Adrian Armsworthy, service officer Bill Heron and Wilson MacDonald.


A few weeks ago, however, MacPherson’s life took an abrupt turn for the better, thanks to the donation of an assistive reading device from the Truro legion, He’s a regular volunteer during the annual poppy campaign.

“This has given me back the ability to read,” he said, with a smile, while placing the day’s paper into his machine. “I can read the newspapers again … I can put a book under this machine and read it myself.”

And that restored ability, he said, “is invaluable to me. Because you don’t know how awful it is not to be able to read.”