When I was seven years old, I lost my vision after being hit by a car. I was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a juvenile form of macular degeneration, which caused a blind spot that blocked 98 percent of my visual field. That changed in 2012 when I got eSight; a pair of electronic glasses that enables some individuals with legal blindness, like me, to actually see.
This remarkable invention changed my life. I could, for the first time since I was seven, actually see. It was like I was free. Now, I feel unstoppable. I can see the faces of my sons, husband, and siblings. I can perform the simplest tasks without asking for help, like plugging my phone charger into the wall or safely walking across the street. I can also indulge in the guilty pleasures of life like people-watching and celebrity spotting.
And, more profoundly, I've furthered my career by securing a position at eSight as an advocate to help millions of individuals around the world live their lives to the fullest with sight. At eSight, we don’t just make a life-changing product, we push an entire movement.
We're also a proud Salesforce customer, part of the #SalesforceOhana where, together with other organizations like the Blind Institute of Technology (BIT), we work to drive change for the visually impaired.
There are 253 million individuals around the world living with legal blindness. And more staggeringly, the unemployment rate for legally blind people has been reported as high as 70-75%. Yes, you read right, SEVENTY FIVE PERCENT! The intelligent technology behind eSight not only empowers individuals with the gift of sight (which is mind-blowing in itself), but it empowers individuals with independence, confidence, and the drive to live their lives to the fullest.
Our fundraising pages help people afford this amazing technology that can change their lives forever. I came across the incredibly inspiring story of Jeffery Ritz Jr. on one of these pages.
Jeffery, now in his forties, was born blind due to optic nerve hypoplasia. Jeffery is super smart—I'm talking The Big Bang Theory smart. But he doesn't feel like he had a proper education due to the schools for the blind that his state sent him to. Nevertheless, he pushed the boundaries in terms of what a visually impaired person could do and became passionate about technology after achieving his Masters in Theology.
On August 11, 2017, Jeffery tried eSight for the first time. And our technology completely changed his life. He shared;
“Today, I had the most incredible experience of my life! I had the opportunity to check out a new technology called eSight that was developed to help those who are legally blind. It was absolutely amazing! While wearing the device, I could read the signs for the stores in a strip mall that was 60 yards away on the other side of the parking lot. I could zoom in and see the color of the demonstrator’s eyes from across the room! This was such a thrilling experience, words cannot do it justice! I hope that I have been able to convey some of what I felt that day.”
During this same time, life handed Jeffery another lemon when he was laid off from his job. Being the tenacious individual he is, Jeffery didn't let this setback get him down. Instead, he joined a pilot program being run by BIT in Denver to become a certified Salesforce Administrator.
I discovered that, in close partnership with Salesforce, BIT has adapted the presentation materials and in-class delivery used in a standard Salesforce Administration course. They've also worked extensively with Salesforce to ensure that the certification exam is accessible for visually impaired test takers. This is such an important step in ensuring our legally blind community has an opportunity to benefit from the reported 3.3 million jobs that will be created in the Salesforce ecosystem by 2022.
Mike Hess, the founder of BIT, was so impressed with Jeffery that he recommended him for a placement following the pilot, saying;
“Jeff Ritz took to our course adaptations like a fish to water! His persistence led him to be our very first certified Salesforce Administrator. Throughout the class, he was a tireless problem-solver, and offered great feedback on areas where we could improve the accessibility of the class.”
This truly demonstrates the magic of the Salesforce ecosystem, that an individual like Jeffery can receive help from so many forward-thinking organizations wanting to ensure accessibility is front-of-mind in tech.
At eSight, like Salesforce, we're a company that doesn't wait for change to happen, instead, we do everything within our power to push the boundaries and make it happen. We wake up in the morning because we want to help people like Nick in Austin, Texas, to finish his final year in college so he can take the radio world by storm, or Brandi in Rock Hill, South Carolina, to see her six-year-old daughter for the first time. We get serious “tech neck” from being glued to our screens so that eleven-year-old Olivia can see her favorite team, the Calgary Flames, hit the ice.
Together with progressive organizations, like BIT and Salesforce, eSight strives to make technology more accessible to all, and we drive accessibility development to challenge the long-held beliefs of what a visually impaired person can and cannot do.
Yvonne is an award-winning artist, mother, and philanthropist dedicated to the rapidly evolving landscape of inclusion. She works to build bridges between stakeholders and companies providing technology to people living with disabilities. She loves setting trends, indulging in podcasts, and finding new ways to get vegetables into her kids. Her favorite movie is The Last Unicorn.