David Wood

David Wood with his guide dog

David Wood lost his sight to diabetes eight years ago and approaching CNIB for help was a big step for him. He worked with an Orientation and Mobility Instructor for four months and eventually became a confident, independent traveler.

"CNIB provided me with a multitude of services that have helped me remain independent and meet the challenges of daily living with vision loss," says the Winnipeg native.

“And I thought, ‘If there’s any way I can help out and give back, if there’s any way I can help enrich anybody’s life, or be there to listen… That’s what it’s all about.’”

Following his training, Wood applied for a guide dog and was soon on his way to Guiding Eyes for the Blind in New York State. There, he was matched with Orson, a black Labrador retriever.

Since Orson’s arrival, Wood’s confidence has soared. Walking five to 10 miles a day, the pair have become celebrities in their neighbourhood. Both staff and regulars at the local coffee shop know Orson by name and people on the street often stop Wood for a quick chat. “We’re highly visible to say the least,” he jokes.

Wood, who has now been volunteering with CNIB for five years, is an integral part of CNIB’s speakers’ bureau, traveling to schools to talk about CNIB and his experience of living with vision loss.

“My experience is that many people don’t know how to approach you,” he says. “They don’t want to embarrass you or themselves, so rather than do something, they do nothing, and that’s the wrong approach.

“Before I lost my sight, I never had any contact with anybody who was blind. I had no knowledge of what it was like to be blind or how it would change somebody’s life. Now that I live it, I understand it.”

Wood also helps with CNIB’s volunteer orientation, a monthly session designed to introduce new recruits to the organization.

“For many [new recruits], I’m the first blind person they’ve met so I try to put them at ease with a little humour,” says Wood.

Recently, Wood became the first Canadian Field Representative for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. He is also the school’s first graduate to take on this responsibility and travels throughout North America promoting the school and demonstrating the abilities of people living with vision loss.

For those considering volunteering with CNIB, Wood offers this advice: “Give CNIB a call, go down and at least see what you have to offer,” he says.

“What’s more important than making a connection with people?