CCB Waterloo Regional Club

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A Lack of Sight is not a Lack of Vision

Look at Jean Lydia Go!

Winner in the Menu Match-up which aired 28 November 2017 on AMI-tv

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In 2015 Jean Lydia graduated from the basic level course at Liaison College in Kitchener. Her main passion is cooking. Due to her visual challenges culinary cuts such as julienne carrots or to make perfect diced tidbits isn’t possible due to a depth perception challenge. Jean Lydia received an email from CCB to consider a cooking competition. It took two emails from Cecilia B that finally got Jean Lydia to apply.

After numerous phone calls with SB Entertainment she got an opportunity to go to Toronto to be interviewed for Menu Match-Up. Jean Lydia was then chosen as one of the 18 contestant competitors.

In June 2017 Jean Lydia competed to win a culinary competition using a seven mystery box ingredients.

Jean Lydia’s next goal is to become a sous chef once she completes the advanced course at Liaison College in Kitchener. Jean Lydia is waiting for the CNIB to begin the cooking classes for the blind and partially sighted. Jean Lydia will be the cooking tutor.


White Cane Week spreads the word

Determination, perseverance and canes enable women with deteriorating eyesight

JOHANNA WEIDNER - therecord.com
KITCHENER (Feb 2, 2007)

Eleanor Gough considers herself lucky, even though her sight is nearly gone. "I'm really very fortunate because sight is my only problem," Gough said. "It doesn't bother me all that much because I feel so well all the time." Being legally blind certainly doesn't keep the sprightly 85-year-old at home. "I have an answering machine because people say they can never get a hold of me. It isn't that I don't like my apartment. I like to get out." In fact, Gough is out and about so much, she has earned the nickname "the roadrunner" at her Kitchener apartment complex.

Always by her side when she's out is her white support cane. "That is good and solid and it will hold me up," she said of the one of three varieties of the white cane designed to aid people who are blind or visually impaired.

Gough's vision started deteriorating about 12 years ago and she was diagnosed with glaucoma, a disease that damages the optic nerve and can cause blindness. Despite several surgeries, the condition worsened. She is now totally blind in her left eye and the right has only about four per cent vision. Her white cane is essential to the independent woman's mobility. She gets around on foot, on the bus, or with the occasional ride from her children. But, she added, "I don't ask them for a drive unless I absolutely have to." At 74, Gough gave up driving. "That's when I hung up my keys and I got a bus pass," she joked. It wasn't actually easy for Gough to let go. She had been driving for a long time, and not just cars. She was a maverick while serving in the English army during the Second World War, teaching driving and mechanics. She drove motorcycles, tanks, and everything in between, including ambulances. "I was never happier than behind the wheel," recalled Gough, who came to Canada as a war bride in 1946. Sadly, she had to give up not just her favourite hobby, but other pastimes, such as crossword puzzles, when her vision began to deteriorate.

"You kind of adjust as you go along," said Gough, who is a widow. She still has plenty to keep her busy: weekly five-pin bowling with a group of senior women, church on Sundays, movies with a friend, trips to Tim Hortons for coffee and lunches at Rockway restaurant. She can still read with the help of a strong magnifying glass. And she walks. A lot. She doesn't mind the snow, but does most of her walking in the summer, when she covers a couple of kilometres a day. I've been fortunate to always have my health and always have all kinds of energy and I still do.

"I still enjoy life," she said.

Hazel Courtney is 66, but she's not planning on retiring soon. Finding work after losing much of her sight wasn't easy, but she is determined to stick with it for a few more years. "Now that I am back in the groove again, I don't want to give it up," the Kitchener woman said. As an employment counsellor, Courtney can help other people with disabilities get work. "I know how hard it was for myself to fit back in the world of work."

Courtney's sight problems were gradual but devastating. She developed glaucoma in her late 20s, and botched surgery in her 40s blinded her left eye. She later suffered a detached retina and severe nerve damage in her right eye twice, just months apart in the 1990s, requiring emergency surgery. A few years ago, she had glaucoma surgery on her right eye, and now she has a cataract. "My vision is foggy, to say the least," Courtney said. "I only have central vision. It's like looking down a tunnel."

She was a social worker, with a bachelor's degree from the University of Waterloo, but finding work in the competitive contract field was tough, especially when she lost her driver's licence. "I was at a really low point thinking I'm never going to get a job again. As my eyesight got worse, people were more leery of hiring me." For a few years she didn't work, and she was ready to give up. "There was a period I was very distressed," admitted the divorced mother of three. However, she enrolled at Conestoga College in 2001 for a one-year career development practitioners program. Now she's self-employed, working mostly from her home office and going out occasionally to meet clients. Working at home "really suits" her. It's made easier with a special computer program that magnifies everything on the screen and she uses a white support cane when she goes out. Recently she moved from her home to a condo apartment that's closer to stores, buses and family.

"You have to work your life around your disability, basically," she said. She is taking piano lessons to learn how to play by ear. She will likely lose all her vision, and wants to have a hobby she can enjoy when her world goes dark. She has made it through a lot of tough situations, and is happy about how it all worked out. "Now I'm very optimistic," she smiled. "If I did lose my sight at this point, I would find a way to cope and go on."

jweidner@therecord.com

After 24 years, Carrie enjoys a magical moment riding a bike through Victoria Park.

Blind couple 'see' life their way

Limited vision doesn't stop Kitchener couple from living independently

JOHANNA WEIDNER - therecord.com
KITCHENER (Feb 10, 2006)

Weirdner story Grocery shopping is more than a chore for Dean and Tiffani Schmidt. Simply finding the right food on the shelves is a tricky endeavour for the Kitchener couple, who are both legally blind.

"It's challenging to see what we want to buy and where the aisles are," Tiffani said. "I go by colours, not by the words."
Everyday tasks can be frustrating for Dean and Tiffani. Yet, after a lifetime of severely limited vision, they've learned to cope with a combination of practice, vision aids and simple stubbornness to do things on their own. Because I've been born with it, I adapted," Tiffani said. "All my other senses are stronger than my sight to compensate." They've adapted so well that people often don't immediately realize they're any different.

"To see us walking down the street, you wouldn't necessarily know at first glance," Dean said. The couple are great ambassadors for White Cane Week, the Canadian Council of the Blind's annual public-awareness campaign, which runs Feb. 5 to 11.

The white cane is a symbol of independence and the campaign's goal is to remove barriers and boost the use of tools that help blind and visually impaired Canadians live independently. Although the Schmidt's don't need canes to get around, they're getting identification canes to alert other people to their limited vision. Drivers are often dangerously inconsiderate at busy intersections and even walking in malls and crowded places is daunting because people often bump into them.

Strange places can be intimidating for Tiffani and Dean. "If I go somewhere and I've never been there before, I'm totally lost. I'll almost go to pieces," said Dean, who's 44. Little things, such as not knowing where the bathroom is without having to ask, can be frustrating. That's why, he said, "we try and get familiar with places." Once they've figured out a place, then they'll try somewhere new.

That's just another way to cope for the pair, who estimate they have about 10 per cent vision. Tiffani's retinas are damaged by scar tissue from an infection before she was born. The 30-year-old has only peripheral vision, with slightly more in her left eye. Glasses make what she can see sharper. Dean was dropped when he was four months old and needed brain surgery to deal with swelling and clots. But the pressure in his head damaged the optic nerve, blurring his vision permanently. Dean's vision in his right eye is better and that's why he repeatedly and automatically turns his head to the left for a better view. Amazingly, Dean works at a grocery store stocking shelves. "It's just learning where things go," Dean said simply.

He learned where everything goes with one-on-one coaching through employment assistance from the Ontario Disability Support Program, which helps both Dean and Tiffani. She volunteers at the House of Friendship's emergency food hamper program doing light cleaning. Before that she worked in various places, including full-time cleaning at Highland Hills Mall. Finding employment is difficult because they require special training, accommodating environments and, even more basic, a place on a bus route. Dean's store is going through massive renovations -- yet another challenge for him as everything is changed. It's going to be like starting all over again. But it hasn't been the first time and it won't be the last," he said.

Dean and Tiffani both use special tools to help them with daily tasks. Dean has magnifying glasses to see type or the television, while Tiffani uses a handheld magnifier for things her glasses don't make clear enough. They also have a handy machine to magnify text so they can read books and newspapers.

The couple have been married three years, after being introduced by family. "In many ways we are so much alike," Dean said. Tiffani agreed, "It's nice to know somebody I'm married to shares the same experiences that I do, they can relate to the hardship." They live in a two-bedroom apartment -- Tiffani's first home away from her parents and Dean's second. It was easier to live with parents because it's familiar and cheaper, but both were eager for more independence. Dean's first few dates with Tiffani were a bit embarrassing. He remembers thinking, "This is enough of this. I'm getting my own place. I'm almost 40 years old and having my mom drive me around on a date." Together they're managing well and hope to have children. But sometimes they're frustrated by how sighted people react. "People have seen me struggle and they just want to do it for me," Tiffani said. "It might be hard for you to see me do that, but I'll be better off."

Often people aren't sure how to act, how to help. "People see our disability first. We want to be seen as people first," Tiffani said. "There's different ways of seeing. My ways are different."

jweidner@therecord.com