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High-Tech Vision Screening Program For Kids Launches In Silicon Valley

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A traditional hand-over-eye Snellen chart used for visual testing.

A traditional hand-over-eye Snellen chart used for visual testing.

MattBigler20100909_KCBS_0384r Matt Bigler
KCBS's Matt Bigler started as a reporter/anchor in 2004, and is now...
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CBS SF Bay (con't)

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SAN JOSE (KCBS) – San Jose and Silicon Valley are normally at the forefront of technology – from smartphones to electric cars and everything in between.

But the area is learning something from the Deep South when it comes to high-tech eye screening.

For several years now, school children in Alabama have received vision tests, not with the old hand-over-eye charts, but with high-tech cameras.

“Portable, photo optic scan cameras that take pictures of children’s eyes so you don’t have to wait until they’re old enough to read an eye chart to get a fair assessment of their vision,” said Stephen Black, president and founder of Impact Alabama. “We start screening at 16 months of age.”

Impact Alabama has screened thousands of kids for eye disorders like amblyopia.

“Which is if one eye has a serious problem the other eye doesn’t have, your brain literally starts to shut that eye down,” said Black. “And you have a window of opportunity to fix it at the end of which, there’s no repairing it.”

The eye screenings are now going through a pilot program in Silicon Valley, that according to Cathy Andrade with FIRST 5 Santa Clara County.

“Our partnership with the Santa Clara Valley Family Health Foundation has been a key partner in getting resources to these families, such as the vision screening that just occurred,” said Andrade.

In 1998, Californians voted to dedicate tobacco taxes to local health and education programs for young children ages 0-5, which created First 5 commissions in each county across the state.

Andrade said the hope is for full-scale implementation of the vision screening program within the next year.

It’s estimated that vision impairment is the most common disability among children in the United States.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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