A GADGET invented by a retired Edinburgh engineer to help his partially-sighted wife read is set to revolutionise the lives of thousands of people.
Created by 86-year-old Les Geddes, the reading device uses a tiny portable camera to scan small print and project it on to a television screen.
Mr Geddes came up with the invention to help his wife Anne see the buttons and display on their microwave oven.
It is now being manufactured by a handful of charity workers in the Capital, who are distributing the finished versions to people with a degenerative eye condition called macular disease.
Mr Geddes also hopes to help thousands of partially sighted people around the world by posting his designs on the internet so the device can be made by the relatives of anyone who needs one.
The pensioner, who used to work in the development of weapons guidance systems, was inspired to come up with the device after his wife Anne's sight began to fail three years ago.
He was shocked to discover that the most suitable reader to project words on to a monitor available on the market cost patients more than 3000.
"I was shocked because it was just a TV and a camera, so I got the idea that I could make something similar," he said.
"The first problem Anne encountered was seeing the read-out on the microwave so I made something so she could see the writing clearly on the television set in the kitchen.
"It's just progressed from there and I hope this will give people who have macular degeneration something which will cost them little but will help them a great deal." The tiny camera used in the machine is only the size of a postage stamp but it projects a high definition picture on to an ordinary television set.
Mr Geddes first showed off his device at a city meeting of the Macular Disease Society after meeting its chairman George Kay. Since then the group has started making the gadgets and Mr Kay, who has suffered from macular disease since he was 26, has exhibited the devices at conferences in Perth and London.
The group has already sent 50 orders around the UK and an associate in Ireland has made a further 200. Mr Kay said some users had been reduced to tears being able to see a photograph of a loved one or complete a crossword.
The 73-year-old said: "Having macular disease is like looking through a net curtain, and this device helps people to see small print for the first time in years."
The public are being invited to see the reader in action at a special display at St John's Church, Edinburgh, as part of Macular Awareness Week.
Members of the Macular Disease Society will be at the church, which is on the corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road, tomorrow and Thursday between 10am and 4pm.
Further information is also available by calling Mr Kay on 0131-664 3460 or by visiting www.partiallysighted.info.
'Now I can write... it's a real enabling tool'
GRANDFATHER Fred Wood's life changed dramatically after he started losing his sight almost three years ago.
First his vision became distorted, and within months he was left unable to drive or recognise people he knew when he met them out in the street.
Mr Wood, of Penicuik, was eventually diagnosed with macular disease and he was registered blind at the start of this year.
The 81-year-old said: "Losing my sight has had a tremendous impact.
"I can no longer drive and I can't see things when they are straight ahead.
"I do have some peripheral vision but I can't recognise people, and it's a hell of a job to cross the road.
"It can make life extremely difficult."
Mr Wood, a retired grounds maintenance officer, started using the Geddes Reading Aid three months ago and it has transformed his life. Now he is able to read and write clearly for the first time in years.
He said: "I was managing to write some things from memory but the spacing and keeping a true line was difficult.
"Now I can write addressees and short notes and it allows me to read quite small print. It's a real enabling tool."