Sudbury's Shelby McAnsh thanks CNIB for enabling independence

Born with retinopathy of prematurity, Shelby McAnsh can’t see out of her left eye and has tunnel vision in her right eye. At every stage, CNIB has been an essential resource for McAnsh – helping her grow into a successful, confident adult.

McAnsh, 21, noticed she was seeing things differently than her peers when she started senior kindergarten.

“I couldn’t see the chalk board so my vision teacher would write everything on a white board and I began to learn braille, says McAnsh. “That’s also when I received my first white cane. It had stickers all over it. The CNIB specialist told me ‘every time I see you use this, you’ll get a sticker.’”

While McAnsh has accepted her vision loss, she says some social interactions are still awkward.

“When I walk down the hall, I don’t know who is talking to who or if someone is talking to me,” says McAnsh. “I don’t want to be the weird kid who says hi to everyone.”

Growing up without vision, McAnsh became her own advocate at a young age.

“I was open about my vision loss and I made blind jokes in class. I said ‘if you’re uncomfortable, get over it. I’m comfortable with my situation.’ It broke the ice so people didn’t look at me as the poor blind kid,” says McAnsh. “And, in grade 10, I gave a speech about living with vision loss.”

Whether she was discovering how to use a white cane or how to cook safely, CNIB has been with McAnsh every step of the way.

“It was important to learn basic skills like crossing the street, pouring a glass of water and using the stove without burning myself,” says McAnsh. “Putting salt on food is a simple task for someone with vision, but it’s difficult for someone who can’t see. Without CNIB, I wouldn’t be as independent as I am.”

One of the life-changing moments came when McAnsh had an opportunity to use a closed-circuit television (CCTV), a device that is used to magnify text. It gave her an opportunity to expand her horizons and rediscover the joys of reading.

“Until then, I couldn’t read age-appropriate material because it was in small print,” says McAnsh. “After I got a CCTV, I could read about topics I was interested in and really enjoyed it. Now, I’m a reading fanatic.”

With a love for visual art, McAnsh dreams of becoming an illustrator for children’s books.

McAnsh holds the paper a couple inches from her eye and uses her remaining vision to create works of art with pencil crayon.

“I’ve always been interested in art and love to draw,” says McAnsh. “It’s a really creative way of expressing yourself. You can do what you want...illustrate a theme, depict a scene or make your own creation. There are no boundaries on paper.”