VERO BEACH, Fla. — He’s just sixteen years old, but a Florida student is already taking big strides to help people who are visually impaired or blind.
Omar Shareef, a student at St. Edward’s School in Vero Beach, has come up with a way for the visually impaired to “hear” what they would otherwise see.
He invented what he calls the “Helping Hand.” It’s a glove that features cameras and a computer to analyze an image. Within seconds, a user can hold their hand in front of them, push a button to take a picture of their surroundings, and the glove will tell the user what is in front of them. It also has facial recognition technology that can be programmed to tell the user who is in front of them.
Omar came up with the idea for a science fair project. He won first place in Florida and third place internationally in his category.
“Just put the device on, press the different buttons and that’s it. I tried to make it as simple and easy to use as possible,” Shareef said.
His passion to help the visually impaired, however, started years before his science fair competition.
He visited an orphanage in India when he was only about 10 years old.
"I actually saw a good number of kids that were blind. I had never been exposed to that so it kind of hit me pretty hard,” Shareef said. “I kind of held that within me.”
There was a second influence, too.
“There is this thing we do at our school called ‘pals’ day, where they partner us with kids at the Wabasso school for the handicapped. My friend and I were partnered with a student who is visually impaired. He kind of had some trouble getting around and he was anxious all the time because of the fact that he couldn’t really see what was around him,” Shareef said.
He started learning to code in middle school.
“I had learned a lot of coding languages by my tenth-grade year.”
Now, he’s combining his knowledge with his heart to help, making life a little easier for the visually impaired.
He also made his glove from items he could order from Amazon, hoping if he’s able to market the glove, it could be available to the visually impaired at a low cost.
Shareef has also started a non-profit called Second Sight.
On October 5, he is hosting a Dinner in the Dark to raise awareness for what the visually impaired experience completing day-to-day tasks. It will also highlight how his invention could help them.