"CNIB instilled pride and confidence in me." - F. LeBlanc

August 17 2017 - Fred LeBlanc.JPGAs a firefighter for more than 29 years, Fred LeBlanc, 50, was in disbelief when he began to lose his vision in the fall of 2011.

“I first noticed a problem with my vision when I was doing computer work at night, but in less than a couple weeks, I was having the same issues during the day,” says LeBlanc.

That’s when he called his Doctor of Optometry in Kingston and made an appointment.

“After my exam, my optometrist told me that he thought there may be something medical so he referred me to the eye clinic immediately,” says LeBlanc. “I went to see the ophthalmologist right away. It was a bit of a whirlwind, a lot of concern about what was happening to me.”

After a series of tests, LeBlanc still didn’t have a diagnosis other than being “legally blind”. At this point, his ophthalmologist referred him to CNIB.

“I didn’t understand how to take it, or what it meant. I was convinced they would find out what was wrong. Eventually, it started to sink in, but I got pretty down about the situation,” says LeBlanc. “Realistically, I wasn’t going to be going back on the fire trucks, but I had been heavily involved with the provincial association for 10 years and I was exploring opportunities with the international association. I questioned myself. If I struggled with everyday tasks, how was I going to lead a fulfilling career?”

With the help of CNIB, LeBlanc received emotional support from other individuals who understand the impact of vision loss on everyday life.

“I thought ‘why can’t I do what I set out to do?’ I had to tell myself ‘don’t be silly, this is not your fault, there’s nothing to be ashamed of,’” says LeBlanc.

That’s when he decided to run for the 13th District Vice-President with the International Association of Fire Fighters – a position he was elected for and still holds today.

“CNIB instilled pride and confidence in me, and provided me with the tools to remain independent.”

As the primary provider of post-vision loss rehabilitation therapy in Ontario, CNIB has enabled LeBlanc to lead a full and active life.

“An independent living specialist, gave me helpful hints with everyday chores such as running the dishwasher, using the oven and counting money. An orientation and mobility specialist, taught me how to travel independently using a white cane; and a low vision specialist, has been terrific in terms of providing information about assistive technology,” says LeBlanc. “It takes a little bit longer to do the same things, but I’ve adapted and adjusted.”