Tom Perski: A visually impaired pioneer serving the blind at the Chicago Lighthouse

By Hannah Gebresilassie

When Tom Perski turned 19 years old, he noticed something was off with his vision during a baseball practice.

“I saw the ball go up in the air and then it disappeared completely and then reappeared again,” Perski says.

Perski was later diagnosed with a rare case of Stargardt macular dystrophy, a genetic eye disorder which causes progressive vision loss. Today, Perski works at the Chicago Lighthouse serving the blind and visually impaired.

In this video, Tom Perski of the Chicago Lighthouse talks about his vision loss and shows the latest technology to help the blind and visually impaired. (Hannah Gebresilassie/MEDILL)

Perski is the senior vice president of rehabilitation and oversees the Assistive Technology Center and the Tools for Living store. He manages the technology designed to help clients with vision loss.

The newest technology at the Tools for Living store is the OrCam, which was introduced two months ago. The OrCam is a small, portable camera which gets mounted on the user’s eyeglasses. It snaps a photo of the visual, converts text into speech, then announces it back in real time.

Other technologies to serve with vision loss include portable video magnifiers, desktop magnifiers and tablets with special features among many other tools. Perski says they offer financial plans and provide low, medium and high priced solutions to meet any budget. He hopes solutions will become more affordable in the future.

Photo at top: Known to be a pioneer in the field of low vision, Tom Perski oversees various programs at the Chicago Lighthouse to help the visually impaired and blind. (Hannah Gebresilassie/MEDILL)