Device helps blind writer regain confidence to follow his calling

Paul Castle, who was diagnosed with a rare eye disease growing up in North Van, has just finished writing and illustrating a children’s book based on her relationship with her husband and her desire to adopt.

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Paul Castle has always dreamed of being able to read stories to his children one day.

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The 31-year-old has only 10 percent vision due to a rare genetic disease that breaks down the retina over time. But thanks to technology, he will now be able to read aloud when, fingers crossed, he and her husband hope to adopt next summer.

“Even when I lose all my vision, I will still be able to read our kids bedtime stories,” Castle said. “It may seem like a small thing to some, but it’s huge to me.”

Castle He was born in North Vancouver and grew up in the Lower Continent, always bumping into things, especially in the dark.

He had no idea what people meant when they talked about starry night skies, but he still had 50 percent vision, so he didn’t think anything was wrong.

“I thought everyone saw the world the way I did.”

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Then, at age 16 and practicing for his driving test, he went to change lanes and nearly hit a car next to him that he didn’t see.

The final diagnosis: retinitis pigmentosa.

“Believe it or not, I was relieved,” Castle said. “When you don’t see things clearly and you stumble over something, all the clumsiness, all the mistakes, all the silly feeling, I thought I was just clumsy.

“Now I had a name. She had a reason.

Paul Castle and the wearable device that reads text, recognizes faces and helps navigate around objects simply by asking:
Paul Castle and the wearable device that reads text, recognizes faces and helps navigate around objects simply by asking, “What’s in front of me?” jpg

Castle was living in White Rock when she met her future husband. Matthew Olshefskyand moved to Seattle four years ago to be with him.

It was Olshefski who suggested a couple of weeks after COVID-19 hit and things were winding down, that Castle finally write a children’s book he was always talking about.

the result was the pengroomswhich follows the penguins Pringle and Finn (Castle and Olshefski) as they deliver wedding cakes and together face challenges at each wedding.

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It was published earlier this year. The sequel, The Secret Ingredient, will be released later this month.

The books are about the couple’s journey to adoption, about love, diversity, inclusion and, yes, the importance of teamwork.

It wouldn’t have been possible without something called OrCam MyEyeCastle said.

The tiny device clips onto eyeglass frames (it comes with a non-prescription pair). Castle looks at the printed text on any surface and reads it to him through a bluetooth headset.

It also recognizes faces, hand gestures, products, credit cards and money, and scans barcodes.

In the beginning, he wasn’t a guy who wanted any kind of help, not even a white cane while he was in college.

“I had the scars on my shins to prove it,” he said.

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When he finally realized that a cane would not only be for his safety, but also for the safety of others, he relented when he was 22 years old.

“It changed my life, it immediately gave me more independence.”

Paul Castle and his dog, Mr. Maple.
Paul Castle and his dog, Mr. Maple. Photo by Paul Castle and Matthew Olshefsk /jpg

He made the same jump when he got a guide dog, Mr. Maple. More mobilitybut still lacked a communication tool.

“One thing the dog, or the cane, can’t do is read me.”

Castle and Olshefski have hundreds of thousands of followers on their social media platformsa large number of LBGTQ communities and people with visual impairments.

He started hearing about OrCam from the latter when, lo and behold, OrCam approached him about gifting him one (which aren’t cheap, $2,500 to $5,800, via CNIB smart life).

Castle welcomed him in January and immediately he and Mr. Maple were able to go out on their own and not depend on the kindness of others to, say, read him a menu.

“The most important thing for me is the feeling of independence that it has given me,” Castle said. “It makes me feel a little bit more whole, it really makes a difference on a soul level, on a core level.

“That is very important for people in the visually impaired community.”

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twitter.com/gordmcintyre

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