CNIB ambassador encourages others to see beyond vision loss

Headshot of Marian Zaichkowski When Marian Zaichkowski noticed that her vision was beginning to get blurry about 10 years ago, she booked an appointment with her optometrist as she figured she needed a stronger prescription for her glasses. Unfortunately, what she found out was quite different. Marian was diagnosed with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and was told that her central vision would deteriorate significantly with time. It was only about six months later when this happened. “I was stopped at a red light when I was driving home one evening and all of a sudden I couldn’t see more than two feet in front of me. I was absolutely terrified,” says Marian. “I managed to get home, hung up the keys and haven’t driven since.”

A few months prior to this, Marian had enrolled at Mount Alison University. At the age of 71, she knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but now she also had the added challenges of vision loss. Despite this, she didn’t give up. Through CNIB programs and services, Marian learned different ways to adjust. “Although, I couldn’t read my textbooks the way everyone else did, CNIB Assistive Technology services introduced me to different pieces of equipment that helped me adapt during my studies,” says Marian. She also highlights the assistance of the CNIB Library as a contributor to her university success. “Whenever I had a paper or assignment to do, I would contact the CNIB Library and they would provide me with the tools to complete my research. They were outstanding!” At age 75, Marian graduated with a Major in History and a Minor in English (and no mark lower than a B-)!

With this, it is clear that Marian is a motivated individual, and when it comes to her volunteer work, this is no exception. Marian has been volunteering with CNIB for 10 years. She is the past chair on the Board of Directors and a member of the Government Relations committee. In addition to these roles, she has helped to organize Dining in the Dark events and is also responsible for creating the Seeing Beyond Vision Loss Art Show which is now in its third year running. “I’m very proud of this achievement as it’s a wonderful way to showcase the beautiful work of individuals who are blind or partially sighted,” says Marian. “I hope that through my work, I’m able to motivate others who are living with vision loss and show them that they’re still capable of doing things, regardless of certain challenges.”

Marian has always thought of herself as a very independent individual – so much so that she admits not accepting help from CNIB while initially struggling with vision loss. “It probably would have made my life a lot easier had I done so, but at that time, I thought that I should’ve been able to do things on my own,” Marian says. Today, however, after having seen the benefits of CNIB programs and services first-hand, she strongly encourages others to take advantage of the support that is available. “It’s important to understand that it’s alright to ask for help,” says Marian. “It took me a couple of years to realize this, but I’m glad I did.”

Those who know Marian know that she has a great sense of humor – she even jokes that her vision loss has its perks! “It’s great – I get to board the airplane first, and now I have an excuse for not knowing the name of someone in the room since I can’t see their face clearly,” laughs Marian. Besides being quite the jokester, Marian also enjoys acrylic painting and is an active volunteer with Scouts Canada. 

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