A brother and sister who lost their sight 20 years ago have become the first people in Wigan Borough to pilot state-of-the-art technology which is helping them to read and write. Valentino and Christina Caramalou, who live in Ince, Wigan, are currently piloting OrCam glasses which help blind or partially sighted people to see through facial recognition and to read by reading text aloud.
Both siblings, originally from Romania, had their eyes removed when they were children due to a genetic condition and have never been taught to read or write or had any help with their disability. With the support of Wigan Council, the siblings are gaining independence for the very first time, are able to recognise their parents and are attending English classes.
Valentino loves that he can now read his own post and isn’t relying on mum and dad to help him. He said: “The glasses have opened up a new world for me. I am so appreciative of the help we’ve been given. “I have always liked music but I never knew who was singing or what they looked like – now I know who it is.
“I love reading my post. I am also attending college and would one day like to get a job.”
Currently, Valentino doesn’t feel confident going outside and his aim is to get a guide dog.
The council’s sensory team is also helping him to reach this goal by doing mobility training with him to teach him how to use a long cane and a lead for a dog. He regularly walks around his street to build up a mental map in his head of where things are so he can one day go out independently.
Christina’s ambition was to go on Facebook and originally told council officers there was no point her having any ambitions because she would never reach them. Christina said: “The glasses have made my life so much easier. I can go outside, read what I want. I love reading food and sweets packaging! I can also go on facebook which is amazing. I am very grateful.”
Wigan Council is leading the way across the country with assistive technology and is helping more people stay in their own homes and stay independent for longer thanks to the latest technology. The siblings were previously living with both parents and another sister privately renting a one-bedroom flat and were facing eviction before the council got involved and helped them to access a house which suited Valentino’s and Christina’s needs. The family are now settled in Ince and are getting the right support. Dad Marion said: “We don’t know how to thank you enough. The glasses have opened up a new world for them both and they have such a better quality of life.”
Stuart Cowley, director for adult social care and health at Wigan Council, said: “This is an amazing story. I’m so delighted that Valentino and Christina are finally getting the support they need to live a more independent life. “Before the glasses they were relying heavily on both parents but this technology means they can now carry out basic living tasks, such as going into the kitchen and getting something to eat, reading their post and making a cup of tea. “Our fantastic people powered technology programme is helping us to shift from traditional care packages to looking innovative ways technology can make a difference to someone. “We are leading the way nationally with this innovative work and are changing lives.
“Through The Deal, we recognise that each person has a unique range of needs and it’s brilliant that with the latest technology we can support those needs and help people to stay safe and independent in their own homes.”
An empty bungalow in Wigan has had a digital makeover in an innovative move to show people how technology can transform lives. The council’s ‘digital bungalow’ has been kitted out with cutting edge technology to showcase to residents the wide range of gadgets and tech that can be installed enabling them to stay in their homes for longer.
To find out more about accessing the bungalow to see how technology can assist you or a family member contact 01942 489410