Editor's note: This is the fourth column in a six-part series exploring the lives of people having a positive impact on Colchester County.
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Truro resident Linda Spears is an advocate for the blind and is aiming to establish a local Canadian Council of the Blind chapter.
If you believe in yourself anything is possible.
Truro resident Linda Spears has always believed that a strong mind can empower oneself and influence others. When she lost her vision in 2005, Spears learned to shut out feelings of fear and inadequacy and focused on reaching her goals.
She continues to run a successful home business by providing administrative and data entry services for local and global business clientele.
In her spare time, she is dedicated to empowering people with vision loss and educating the sight community on accessible design.
"I have been hit by a car because people assume I can see them coming. Honking the horn doesn't help either. Does that mean stop or continue walking? This can be a very scary experience," said Spears.
She explained how pedestrians with vision loss rely on listening to traffic to infer intersection geometry.
"The accessible pedestrian signals are devices that communicate information about when to walk. We (people with vision loss) rely on drivers to give the right-of-way to pedestrians," Spears said.
Understanding traffic signals and modern intersection design is only one of many issues Spears hopes to bring attention to in our community.
"I want people in the community to recognize that vision loss does not equate to a loss of a full life," she said.
"I am active. I travel independently. I run my own business.
"I even won a game of washer toss against my nieces," she said with a laugh.
Historically, people with varying abilities have been ‘othered.' To put someone in a box, to stereotype a person is harmful to society at large.
"People sometimes wonder how I can read. I have some sight in my one eye and although it is getting worse, technology has made it possible for magnification or translation," Spears said.
She encourages others to interact with the person, not with his or her disability. Also, she challenges employers to look beyond abilities and cost for accommodation, as the cost of accommodation is typically low.
Spears has benefited from the rehabilitation and support services of Canadian National Institute of the Blind (CNIB). She has since volunteered her own time to help educate and support others going through vision loss.
"There are a lot of people who are losing vision due to age. Our risk of developing an eye disease that can cause vision loss increases as we get older," said Spears.
According to the CNIB website, researchers estimate that more than one million Canadians are living with blindness or a significant loss of vision. Statistics show 84,000 of those people live in Atlantic Canada.
The first week of February is National White Cane Week; Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). CCB deals with the ongoing effects of vision loss by encouraging active living and rehabilitation through peer support and social and recreational activities.
Spears is looking to start a CCB chapter here in Colchester County. The chapter will need a minimum of six people with vision loss.
"We could do so much - awareness, education and fundraising. The money will stay in Colchester County," Spears said.
Lia Renaud is a recent graduate of Western University in London, Ont., and is happy to be now living in Colchester County.