Insight May 2016

5/17/2016

Welcome to the May issue of Insight, which has been generously sponsored by Bayer HealthCare, Alcon and Shire Pharma Canada ULC. We hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out this month’s stories…


“What I want people to know about blindness”

It’s Vision Health Month! And to mark the occasion, we want to stomp out some outdated misconceptions about blindness, and raise public awareness about what it’s really like to be blind or partially sighted.

So we asked some of our clients what they want the public to know about being blind. Here’s what they had to say…

  • Don Connolly I want people to know…

    “That if it's to be, it's up to me. It's a matter of changing what it means to be blind. Someone who is blind or partially sighted can do anything! People may think we can't, but we really can. We might need some help along the way or we do it a little differently, but we are very capable." –Don Connolly, Newfoundland

  • Jillian Sloane I want people to know…

    “That being blind doesn't confine you, and why should it? Don't miss the chance to become independent. Learning to use a white cane, specialized technology and other life skills might be intimidating, but once you learn these vital skills you will realize that you can live the life you have always wanted. And who doesn't want to achieve their goals while feeling of a sense of accomplishment and freedom?!" –Jillian Sloane, British Columbia

  • Derek LackeyI want people to know…

    “[That they should] have a hands-off attitude. If you’re going to try and help me, introduce yourself and ask me if I need help; don’t just grab me. You wouldn’t grab someone who is sighted and sit them down on the bus or walk them across the street without asking them. This same principle applies to people who are blind or partially sighted. Treat me like you would anyone else.” –Derek Lackey, Manitoba

  • Owen ParkerI want people to know…

    “That just because I am going blind it does not mean I am dependent on everyone else to ‘survive’ my life. Often I tell people that I can probably do most of the tasks they do every day, I just do it a different way. Most people are shocked to learn how independent someone with a vision loss can be. I can live a happy, successful life and be as independent as anyone else." –Owen Parker, Ontario

  • Kim Thistle MurphyI want people to know…

    "People sometimes forget that I have low vision and assume I can do everything the exact same way as they do. Sure, people with low vision live independent lives, but there are times we need assistance. For example, if I'm going to a place I have never been before, I need a few minutes to adjust before I start walking or I might need you to be my sighted guide if there is too much commotion. It's important for loved ones to be mindful of that." –Kim Thistle Murphy, Newfoundland

What about you? What do you want people to know about blindness? Let us know what you think at insight@cnib.ca.

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What does blindness really look like?

When people think about blindness, they often think it means one thing: total darkness. But the truth is, blindness is an individual experience and it’s different for every person.

So we took to social media and asked you, our friends and community, to describe what blindness looks like for you. Here’s some of what you had to say…

  • “I have multifocal choroiditis and my left eye is extremely blurry and a bit distorted. When I'm having an episode my central vision is very distorted and everything looks foggy…” –Deb. B

  • “I have no peripheral vision at all. It’s like constant tunnel vision. As well as colour blindness and [I] can’t see very far. I also wear glasses as I am near sighted.” Holleigh H.

  • “My right eye is completely blind. I have vision out of the top half of my left eye. All I see is shapes and objects, no detail. When it's sunny and I go inside from outside, it's completely black for a couple of minutes...” –Link N.

  • “…My peripheral vision is good but the centre is blurry and distorts what I see, especially what I read, and makes seeing details very difficult. I have trouble seeing in very bright or very low light and especially where there is very little contrast.” –Julie L.

  • “I can't really see much anymore. I basically just see lights and blurry type shadows. It's hard to explain it.” –Tianna D.

  • “I only see small amounts of light and they bounce around, yet I am light sensitive so when it is bright outside or inside it hurts my eyes a lot.” –Ashley N.

  • “Out of my left eye, I see gray, I see light from windows and lamps, and if my fingers are very close to my face, I can sort of see them.” –Sandy-Crafter M.

  • “…Everything I see jumps up and down like you were on a pogo stick. It never stops. I have very [little] to no depth perception. It also affects my balance…” –Nadine P.

  • “What I see is what's directly in front of me and just off to the left side. I cannot see anything on my right.” –Carey K.

  • “I have prosthetic eyes, so I literally see nothing. No darkness, no mist, nothing. It's very hard to describe.” –Thalia B.

These are just a few of the responses we received from our social media followers. To read all the responses or share your own experiences of blindness, leave a comment on our Facebook page.

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How to make a sensory garden

It was a long winter for most of Canada, but spring is finally here! Time to enjoy the warmer weather and spend time in the garden. While gardens are beautiful to look at, a sensory garden stimulates the senses beyond sight.

Here are a few tips on how to engage all your senses and transform your own green space into a fantastic sensory environment...

Create soundImage of wind chimes

There are lots of ways to create sound in a garden. One of the easiest and cheapest is to attract birds with a bird bath or bird feeder. You can also take advantage of the breeze by hanging wind chimes, or by planting grasses like Prairie Blues (also known as Schizachyrium scoparium) that will rustle in the wind.

If you have the budget, install a water feature. The sound of running water is wonderfully relaxing! And creating a textured path, using gravel or crushed sea shells, can also create lovely crunching noises underfoot and help people with vision loss navigate their way through the garden.

Image of hand holding dandelion Choose textured plants

Build a garden that invites you to touch and experience a variety of textures. Each plant has a different feeling, whether it be wide, narrow, oval or hairy. Choose flowers with different leaf textures, like the velvety leaves of Lamb's Ear or the tactile touch of Aloe Vera (which is also great for scrapes, mild burns and mosquito bites).

Succulents also make a great choice for a sensory garden for their fleshy touch. Put down some soft lawn grass or decorate your garden with smooth round stones or mosaic tiles. Finally, carve out a sunny spot to sit and feel the warmth of the sun! 

Build your aromas

Image of young woman with glasses, smelling a flower  Not only do the perfume of flowers or fresh herbs delight your sense of smell, scented plants can also help with orientation in the garden.

Lavender, Jasmine and Frangipani all produce a heady fragrance, while Sweet Pea produces a strong, sweet scent. Space scented flowers apart in your garden so you can enjoy and identify the aroma of each one.

Herbs are another terrific addition to a sensory garden. Try thyme, mint or rosemary in pots or planted along the edge of a path. Curry plants (also known as Helichrysum Italicum) give off a spicy aroma on a warm, sunny day.

Make it yummy!

Image of tomato plant   This final sense is many people's favourite – taste! You don't need a huge vegetable patch to create an edible garden. Use planters or hanging baskets to grow cherry tomatoes, peppers or strawberries. Try planting violets, which not only smell lovely but are edible too.

Make use of fresh herbs. Basil, sage, oregano and rosemary all make for wonderful additions to cooking. Herbs can be planted in the garden or in indoor or outdoor pots. 

Incorporate some of these elements into your garden and you'll create a rich, sensory garden that everyone can enjoy.

So go on and get gardening! Tell us what you think or share your gardening stories at insight@cnib.ca.

Don’t forget your sunglasses!

If you’re sighted or have mild or partial vision loss, be sure to wear a pair of good, strong sunglasses with 100% UV protection whenever you’re gardening to help preserve your vision and protect your eyes from UV damage. Browse the Shop CNIB online store for dozens of stylish, UV-protected shades. Proceeds from your purchase will go directly into CNIB programs and services for people in your community who are blind or partially sighted.

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“Wow!” of the month

Karon ArgueMeet author and illustrator Karon Argue

Every so often, you hear about someone who makes you say “wow!” Maybe because they’re an inventor, or a prodigy, or a global adventurer – or maybe just because they’re a great parent, friend or spouse.

This month’s “wow!” comes from Karon Argue, an artist and CNIB client who has been through quite a few hurdles in recent years. From type 1 diabetes, blindness and a kidney transplant last June, she’s overcome some major life obstacles. 

But this past January, she proved none of it was going to stop her – when she published her first book, “The Smooch”, which she both illustrated and authored. The story is about a frog named Tad who, like Karon, was able to lean on the support of friends to help him achieve a goal. The message behind the story is that we can’t get through life and reach our goals without a lot of support from those who love us most. 

Front cover image of “The Smooch” book, featuring a small green frog kissing a large green character with red hair  With only 20 per cent vision remaining in one eye, it's hard to imagine how someone is capable of illustrating colourful and detailed artwork. But Karon does it, and she does it well. She uses a CCTV (closed circuit television), which magnifies everything on a computer screen so she can see her illustrations enlarged while she creates them. 

"I’m not sitting around feeling sorry for myself," she says. "I am still living and pursuing my goals and dreams."

For more information on Karon or to purchase a copy of “The Smooch”, visit karonargue.com.  

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Apply now for a CNIB scholarship!

If you’re blind or partially sighted and are looking to get your post-secondary diploma or Master’s degree, you may be eligible for a CNIB scholarship of between $1,000 and $12,500. Click here for more information or to apply today!

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