Regaining Independence – Karine Descoteaux's Story

At 36 years old, Karine Descoteaux lost her sight from retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that causes a slow drop in vision until blindness. To regain her autonomy and adapt to the challenges caused by her sight loss, Karine participated in CNIB's technology training. 

Currently working as a development officer at the Educational and Recreational Association of the Blind in Trois-Rivières and a psychology student at the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières (UQTR), Karine explains how the technology training offered by CNIB helped her regain her independence.

Living far away from Montreal CNIB's office, remote training allowed her to learn how to use different computer software from the comfort of her home. Using the screen reader JAWS, Karine can now operate Windows, Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Skype and Facebook.

Robert, a CNIB trainer in assistive technology, gave Karine a hand during university by teaching her how to use the university's portal email, how to write assignments, and learn how to make PowerPoint presentations with JAWS. Karine also uses these new skills for many different tasks at work such as writing, sending and receiving emails, and making invoices.

For Karine, similar to many other people living with sight loss, relearning basic computers allows her to regain access to information that helps build her up and leads to more independence.

"It's independence at work and in everyday life because we have access to information, access to everything such as social networks, recipes, music," says Karine. "Anything that others can have on a computer I can too! I can do everything; be it on Excel or Word create files, documents, anything else!"

In addition to CNIB's trainings, Karine has also benefited from recorded library magazines, participated in the Vision Mate program and support groups, which helped her adapt to the loss of her vision.

"When you lose sight and you can talk with other people who are in the same situation as you, it can help," says Karine. "It helped me a lot and I even created meaningful friendships."

To help others, Karine works in her region to supporting and creating activities and adapted games for people with sight loss. For people who are blind or partially sighted, and are unsure of entering the labor market, she tells them, "Everything is possible. You have to adapt, you must be determined to work a little more, but it is possible. Of course, the computer control is essential! Go follow the training, you can practically do everything with the help of JAWS!"

Today, Karine's skills and abilities with a screen reader have allowed her to be more independent and live a fulfilling life within her community and organization.