CNIBDear: Self-Advocates and Professionals,

I am going to become a Vision Mate with the Canadian National institute for the Blind.

We as vision mates provide companionship and support with being a sight impaired person’s sighted guide. I took training on the most effective ways of doing this with Les from the CNIB office in Kamloops. I also had to sign confidential papers as I am working with clients with my community support worker Jolene from Inclusion Kamloops society that supports people with developmental disabilities. I get to be their eyes as a vision mate.

In my training I got to experience what it is like to be blind or partially sighted with simulation goggles and got to learn how to be a sighted guide.

I get to volunteer 2-4 hours per week but the minimum is 2 hours.

I am very excited to take on this volunteer job. Some people might wonder why I’m so interested in this type of work. Well, I have 2 reasons for this sparking my interest. First of all, my best friend Ben is visually impaired. I help him with his independence around town, walking and taking the bus to make sure he gets to where he needs to go.

Then sadly, my mom had a stroke that hit her optic nerve in her right eye instead of her brain. The stroke has caused her loss of vision that has affected both eyes. So now I really felt a need to find out how best to help my mom also. That’s when I got the idea to contact CNIB. It is a good fit for me and will give me the opportunity of helping many people in the same situation as my mom and friend are in.

So I am going to start volunteering with my friend Ben first. I will be taking on a support role and eventually work with others to get to give back to people with disabilities like vision loss. Being able to support my mom at this time also feels great because she has always been a great support to me and now I can do the same for her to. Being sight impaired doesn’t have to mean losing your independence. If you have the right supports in place, you can do anything you set your mind to.

That’s where I come in. I have always tried to give back to ones who have struggles in life since so many have given to me throughout the years and helped me with many struggles I have faced throughout my life. No matter what struggles I face, there are others who have it far worse. Helping others makes me think about others more than my own struggles.

This gives me a more rewarding life by helping others to gain as much independence in life as possible. Which in return, gives those I’m helping a more rewarding life as well. So if anyone is struggling out there or knows of others who are; reach out for help or to help others and together we can overcome anything life throws at us.

With permission from Ben.

By Krystian Shaw