PLAINS TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania (WBRE/WYOU) — Losing your ability to see can be very difficult to accept.
It’s been the reality for a Lackawanna County veteran whose vision impairment prevented him from creating art. But he’s regained the ability thanks to a technological assist.
“My depth perception is off so I need it for curbs, steps,” says 67-year-old Leon Vieira of Clarks Summit. Vieira hasn’t always needed a white cane but this Vietnam era Marine has always had a passion for art.
“I started sketching pictures from newspaper articles and stuff when I was very, very young,” he said.
He progressed to painting including a majestic, white horse he created on canvas about a decade ago. However, glaucoma forced him to put down his paintbrushes. He completely lost sight in one eye and can barely see out of his other.
“That put me in a well of depression,” he said.
When Vieira lost his vision in 2014, he never thought making another painting would be possible. But then, technology stepped in. Enhanced Vision Sales Representative Ed Martin said, “People who lose their sight, they’re devastated first of all because we all believe that sight is the only thing that we would never want to lose.”
Vieira began using what’s called the Acrobat by Enhanced Vision this year. It can magnify images up to 85 times their actual size.
“I just took a shot at trying to paint it,” as he referenced his own version of Monet’s Harbor at Trouville which he painted with the help of the Acrobat.
“It enhances the images in such detail that I can see it through a narrow window of time and if I can see it and get it in my mind I can paint it,” Vieira said.
The Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center made it all possible. Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center Visual Impairments Services Coordinator Jennifer Throop said, “We got him set up with some rehabilitation and they were able to hook him up with the right equipment so he could continue to do what he’s passionate about.”
And that’s something that’s priceless. Vieira is taking weekly painting classes to improve his artistic skills.
He also credits West Haven VA Eastern Blind Rehab Center in Connecticut with helping him overcome his vision impairment.