Understanding visual impairments

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Canadian Council of the Blind CK chapter president Markus McCracken and members of the group are trying to raise awareness that help for the visually impaired is available in Chatham-Kent. McCracken, left, along with Dennis Cooper and Betty Heather, seated, spent an afternoon at Chatham’s Bowlerama along with Larry, Roy and Lois Bedford.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

There’s plenty of help available for the vision impaired in Chatham-Kent.

That’s the message members of the local Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) want to impart to local residents ahead of White Cane Week taking place the first week of February.

C-K chapter president Markus McCracken said the group is working hard to raise awareness of what services are available, as well as publicizing an activity designed to give people with sight a chance to experience what it’s like to be blind or visually challenged.

As part of White Cane Week, the CCB is putting together an obstacle course at the Downtown Chatham Centre where individuals can put on googles and learn to walk with a white cane.

The first obstacle course will take place Feb. 5 at the DCC from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and again from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. A second obstacle course will run on Feb. 10 beginning at 1 p.m.

The public will also be able to meet with members of the group on Feb. 7, to see what it’s like to shop when visually impaired. Meetups will take place at Walmart at 10 a.m.; PetSmart at 11:30 and at SuperStore at 1 p.m.

“We’re trying to get the word out to the general public that there is support for people who are facing vision loss,” McCracken said in a recent interview. “We’re trying to increase our membership and raise awareness. We’re here to help in any way we can.”

Born with glaucoma, the 44-year-old Chatham resident has a prosthetic left eye and has limited “foggy” vision on the right. The fogginess ebbs and flows.

“I tell people it’s like looking through the bottom of a leftover glass of milk,” he explained.

McCracken, who attended the W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind in Brantford, said he doesn’t believe in the phrase “I can’t.”

According to McCracken, technology to assist the visually impaired has improved dramatically in recent years. In fact, he’s becoming a gaming expert who works with companies on gaming accessibility and promotion.

The local CCB chapter also holds monthly meetings at the Active Lifestyle Centre in Chatham on the first Monday of the month at 6 p.m. The group also offers peer support online and assistance with technology.

To find out more about White Cane Week activities or explore what the CCB C-K group has to offer, email CCB.ckchapter@gmail.com.

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