​Blindness touched me – J. Spencer

When I joined CNIB almost two years ago, it was with great excitement. Not everyone gets to do work that touches them deeply and that makes a difference for others. I had worked in healthcare communications for over 30 years – often on causes I felt strongly about, but rarely on causes that touched me, as a person.
Blindness touched me. I watched both my grandmother and mother lose their sight. Granny was almost completely blind from glaucoma. Mom had partial vision due to macular degeneration, but could no longer read, which was a great hardship for her.
I felt badly that my family hadn’t reached out to CNIB to help either of them. Neither we, nor their doctors, understood the support they could have received and I deeply regret that. I hoped that through my work at CNIB I could help other families manage sight loss a bit better than my family did.
CNIB does a great job at raising awareness of the spectrum of blindness and the services available to people through CNIB. It also advocates effectively to break down barriers and create a more inclusive society where people with sight loss are better understood and valued. It is important work.
What surprised me, though, was how working with people who have sight loss changed me. I had always thought that losing my sight would be the worst thing that could happen to me – and I figure I am a likely candidate given my family history. We’ve probably all had conversations with friends and family where we rank our greatest health fears. Blindness always got a high score in my books.
Until I worked at CNIB.
Working for CNIB has changed me. I saw how capably my colleagues with sight loss conduct themselves – how full their lives are despite sight loss. They cope brilliantly. They can do almost everything that I do – they just do it a bit differently. Just like me, they get up in the morning, get themselves ready for work, take the subway, get their kids to school, do their jobs, go shopping, cook dinner. In some situations they need accommodations (e.g., a screen reader for their computer so they can hear a verbal description of what’s on the screen through an earphone), but even that isn’t a big deal.
So, here’s the thing. Losing your sight is not the end of the world. CNIB does an amazing job of providing rehab to people so they can live independently and safely. It also helps people cope with the emotional and social challenges they face when they lose their sight.
I know that if it happens to me, sight loss won’t beat me. I will reach out to CNIB for the help that will be right for me, and I will cope just fine. I don’t want it to happen to me, but I’m no longer afraid of it.
If you know of someone who is living with sight loss, make sure they aren’t trying to handle it all on their own. Get them to contact CNIB. It will make all the difference.