Blair Breidenstein, 13, is like many other kids his age. He likes playing video games, and he uses his favorite team, the Buffalo Bills, while playing the Madden NFL 21 football game.
What You Need To Know
- Blair Breidenstein of Orchard Park has a genetic disorder that causes vision loss
- The teenager has struggled to see since he was diagnosed at age 9
- Adaptive technology in the form of vision-enhancing goggles are helping him see again
"Stefon Diggs. Josh Allen. Just BillsMafia. I love it," he said.
His gameplan is clear, throw the ball to number 14 in blue.
"And I just scored with Stefon Diggs again. Let's go!" he said while playing in the living room of his family's Orchard Park home.
He wears a pair of goggles that look like something out a video game, and they're similar to virtual reality except this much more than a game for him.
"It brings everything live right now to me so I could see it how you guys would see it," he said.
Breidenstein is considered legally blind. After his baseball coach noticed he was struggling to see the ball, Blair's parents took him for an eye exam and found out when he was 9 years old that he has Stargardt disease, a genetic disorder that causes severe vision loss. It's similar to macular degeneration in adults.
According to the National Eye Institute, it affects about 1 in 8,000-10,000 people.
"When I had to read articles for school, it would be like miserable," Breidenstein said. "I would get headaches. I would end up being tired, exhausted, mad, frustrated."
The eight grader has an aid in the classroom at Orchard Park Middle School, and has always had to sit near the front of the room with monitors on his desk to help him see. The aid often had to read him words on the board or the page so he could take in the information.
That was before he got the IrisVision Live goggles last January.
How do they work? Basically, a smartphone camera captures the image and magnifies it in a way Breidenstein can see through the goggles. There are many different modes based on the environment. They even allow him to connect to YouTube, and they can read the words on a page to him audibly. No longer does he have to stand inches from the television or strain to see the computer screen or read a book.
It's truly changed the way he looks at things.
"I've been able to basically do all my homework by myself instead of having the aid right next to me, like one inch away leading me," he said.
And it's made a major difference in how he's able to interact with family and friends. Breidenstein's dad Jim was terrified when they first found out about the condition, but said his son always showed perseverance even when life has been tough on him. He found ways to still play sports and be active and keep up with his brothers.
Seeing the way the IrisVision goggles have helped his son gives him confidence Blair can live a mostly normal life, even if it is slightly different.
"It sounds like a minor thing but to have your son sit on the sofa with you and watch a Bills game or a Sabres game or a movie. It's out of sight," Jim said.
Even something as simple as enjoying the scenery in the backyard, Blair doesn't take for granted.
"I have a lot more independence. I can do a lot more things I wasn't able to do a couple years ago," he said.
And a brighter, clearer future in the years ahead.