It was about ten years ago, as I drove my daughter to her dance class after school, that I first noticed my vision was deteriorating. It was becoming harder to recognize people or read signs, too much light began giving me headaches, and I could barely see anything at night.
I was completely dumbfounded when my eye doctor told me that my condition – retinitis pigmentosa – meant my vision would continue to deteriorate and could eventually lead to complete blindness. I had so many questions: would I have to be dependent on others, could I still keep my job, and how could I cope with losing my vision on top of my hearing impairment at this young age?
Within a few days, I already had my first appointment, and they quickly set me up with a team of professionals to work with me on different aspects of my life. They taught me important daily life skills that I had previously taken for granted as a sighted person, such as how to warm up food in my microwave and wash my clothes on my own. I learned to read and write Braille, which made it easier for me to organize things like my filing cabinet.
I remembered as a high school student walking by the Montreal Association for the Blind (known today as the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre) every day. Not knowing where to turn, I decided to give them a call, and I’m so glad I did.
Their dedicated staff showed me how to get around on my own, to cross the street safely, and to use stairs with the help of a white cane. My wife participated in these sessions as well, so she could understand what I was going through and learn ways to help me meet the challenges that lay ahead. They suggested I get a guide dog, and they helped me prepare for this new responsibility. They even visited me where I work as a stock-keeper for Air Canada, in order to evaluate my work environment and make suggestions aimed at helping me maintain my productivity (such as adjustments in lighting, adapted computer software, magnification equipment, and even where a good rest area would be for my guide dog Athos). They’ve also been helpful with my hearing impairment, providing me with specialized audio equipment and doing my routine hearing tests.
As a client of the MAB-Mackay in their new dual sensorial impairment program for people with both a vision and hearing loss, I am deeply grateful for their role in helping me keep my quality of life, and for the confidence and skills they helped me develop. I’ve since received the Air Canada Employee Award of Excellence, which means so much to me as I was nominated by my colleagues.
I know that my story is only one of thousands that can be told about the difference that the MAB-Mackay makes in the lives of so many in our community. Thank you for helping to improve my quality of life!