Darrell Pike - Volunteer

Living with vision loss

Family, friends and community must be trained to help a person cope: CNIB specialist


Darrell Pike uses a Braille ‘n’ Speak, an adaptive device that converts Braille input to speech. Pike, who has been blind since the age of nine, is CNIB’s specialist in independent living skills in Corner Brook. — Star Photo by Cliff Wells

Used with permission from The Western Star. 

The Western Star

Darrell Pike has developed a healthy attitude toward blindness, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t welcome his sight back.

Pike, who has been blind since the age of nine, has worked as a specialist in independent living skills for CNIB for 30 years.

“You never get used to being blind, but you’ve got to learn to live with it,” Pike said. “That’s what I always tell people.

“I’ll never get used to it, but I’m in charge. I’ve learned to live with it and not let it bother me too much.”

April is Vision Health Month and Pike said nine of 10 people who come to CNIB for help have some vision. He said for most the loss of sight can be devastating, but his organization can help people move on with their lives.

“For me the biggest adjustment has been the fact that I’m always having to teach people to first of all act the same with me as they would with anyone,” Pike said. “I’m constantly having to teach people to let me take their elbow, instead of having them put their arms around me and try to carry me across the street. Extend your elbow, if you’re wanting to help someone. Ask them if they need help. If they say ‘yes’, then extend your elbow.”

Pike said individuals often come up to him in a room full of people and say “guess who.” He said that can be very frustrating.

“My immediate response often is ‘if you don’t know who you are, how do you expect me to know’,” he said.

As a courtesy, he’d like it if people let him know when they’re leaving the room.

Pike teaches people who have vision loss to cope, but they aren’t the only ones who need education.

“Blindness isn’t a personal thing, it’s a family affair,” Pike said.
“It’s important that not just the individual be trained to cope with vision loss, but family and friends and community be trained. We’re involved with all areas of a person’s life, really.”

Pike said winter can be especially discouraging for people with vision problems. He said with sidewalks sometimes inaccessible due to snow and Corner Brook’s narrow streets, there’s nowhere to go. But that doesn’t stop Pike. He shovels his driveway, for instance.

“There’s very little I don’t do,” Pike said. “I play darts. Monday nights you’ll find me at St. Michael’s Church playing darts. You just get to the toe line and you shoot — and yes, I’m as good as the rest of them.

“It’s very serious darts that we play. But it’s also a fun thing. If I beat the guy before me, or the guy after me doesn’t get a higher score than I got, believe you me he gets quite a razzing — not just from the other guys, but me too. I get the same.”

He said one thing we strive toward is to forget the “dis” and work with the “ability” of people.

“You have to be innovative,” he said. “If you have a roast of beef and a roast of pork in the freezer, if I have them there, how do I know which is which? I have to make little tags to go on them. If I have a rump roast, or loin roast, or whatever roast it might be, I write it on a little plastic tag — I Braille it — and put that particular roast in a shopping bag, put the tag on a twist-tie and put the tag on the handles of the bag. That’s our way of doing it. Other people might have different ways that work for them.”

In light of Vision Health Month, Pike reminds people to protect their eyes. To help prevent vision loss, he suggests people quit smoking, eat healthy, and protect their eyes with safety glasses.