TRURO - Linda Spears is not your typical entrepreneur.
Living with an incurable eye disease and limited vision, the Truro woman founded her own international business when she could no longer find work outside of her home.
In 2005, Spears was diagnosed with Graves' eye disease, an autoimmune disorder characterized by the inflammation and swelling of the eye tissues often causing blurred, doubled and decreased vision.
She underwent countless surgeries to save her sight, but lost the majority of her vision in 2007.
"I was only 48 when I lost most of my sight," said Spears. "I still wanted a life and a career, and I couldn't imagine being placed in a home or having a live-in care worker because I couldn't do things for myself."
This desire motivated Spears to turn to CNIB, a charity dedicated to helping Nova Scotians who are blind and partially sighted gain the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life.
With funding from the United Way of Colchester County, CNIB's assistive technology specialist taught Spears how to use computer screen-reading programs to read her emails and recipes.
"I had the knowledge to use my computer - I just couldn't see it," she said. "I thought I couldn't do anything technology-related again, but programs like JAWS and ZoomText showed me that I was still a capable person and employee."
With her newfound skills and confidence, Spears launched Scotiagold Editing Art Services in 2009, a company that she operates from her home in Truro. Through Scotiagold Editing Art Services, Spears edits digital geophysical maps, diamond drill core pictures, and provides analytical data entry services for mining and exploration companies.
"I never thought in a million years that I could go from not being able to see the computer screen to owning and running a business where clients rely on my technical skills," said Spears. "It's pretty amazing."
Spears' clients send her pictures and spreadsheets of data that she then edits and prepares for reports for key investors and stakeholders in the mining industry.
After two years of operation, Scotiagold Editing Art Services expanded to the global market in September 2011 with new clients in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
"I didn't think I would ever find work again but thanks to the United Way of Colchester County's funding of CNIB's essential vision rehabilitation services, I'm running my own business with clients from all over the world," said Spears. "I take great pride in my work with impeccable attention to detail and accuracy. I don't let my vision loss keep me from providing exceptional service to my clients."
In addition to learning assistive technology, Spears believes CNIB's Orientation and Mobility program has been integral to her confidence and ability to lead a full, active life.
Mobility lessons have helped teach Spears how to travel safely and independently in her community using a white cane and listening to traffic flow to determine when it is safe to cross streets.
"At one point, I used to be too scared to even leave my house on my own. I learned to deal with my mobility issues one babystep at a time, from learning how to step outside my front door to walking to the post office down the road to running my errands in downtown Truro."
When Spears is not busy attracting new, international clients for her business, she is giving back to the community by helping other Nova Scotians adjust to losing their sight.
As her business continues to expand, the Truro visionary believes she is living proof that there is life beyond vision loss.
"You can still have a life and a career," she says. "There's more to life than vision loss."
TAGLINE: Nicole Lawrence is the communications co-ordinator for CNIB (Atlantic).