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Ontarians urged to get their eyes checked

For Theresa Dupuis, losing her vision was not the news she wanted to hear in her 60th year, but it was the reality that prevented her sisters from going blind.

“We would all be blind if I didn’t get my eyes checked,” said Dupuis when referring to two of her sisters, who were prompted to see an eye doctor after her diagnosis.

It turns out both of them have glaucoma, as well, but it was detected early and can be managed with eye drops.

Glaucoma is an eye condition that causes damage to the optic nerve. It usually is painless and has no immediate symptoms.

Since the disease progresses over many years, some people do not realize they have it until it’s too late and vision loss is permanent.

In 1990, that was the case for Dupuis, who remembers the first signs of vision loss like it were yesterday.

“The numbers in the phone book were getting smaller, and I could no longer see the centerline when I was driving,” she recalled.

She said the toughest thing to hear was that she would never drive again.

“That was a knife in the heart, that’s our independence, it hurts,” Dupuis sighed.

As the CNIB recognizes World Glaucoma Week, the 82-year-old is encouraging others to have their eyes checked regularly and stresses the importance of getting a second opinion.

Glaucoma is the second-most common cause of blindness and partial sight in Canadian seniors, and more than 98,000 Ontarians are living with the disease.

A recent study commissioned by the CNIB found only 59 percent of respondents are familiar with the disease.

The same survey found the majority of respondents aware of the eye condition understand that age (75 percent) and genetics (71 percent) increase the risk of developing glaucoma.

After Dupuis was diagnosed, she turned to the CNIB to maintain her independence. She accessed independent living skills to learn safe methods of pouring a cup of coffee, preparing a meal, and using household appliances.

Dupuis also found that travelling alone doesn’t have to be scary; in fact, it can be a liberating experience and CNIB specialists are there every step of the way.

But Dupuis’ favourite service is the CNIB Library, which is home to more than 80,000 accessible materials in formats like Braille and audio.

“The DAISY [digital accessible information system] player is fantastic,” she enthused. “I can still read and finish a book.

“When the CDs came out, it was the best thing since sliced bread.”

While it hasn’t been an easy road for Dupuis, she remains positive.

“When one door closes, 10 more open and you have to go through them,” she reasoned.

Dupuis said her vision loss has allowed her to explore other hobbies, including sculpting.

“If I had not been blind, I’d never know that I have the talent to sculpt,” she noted.

“A lack of sight is not a lack of vision,” Dupuis stressed.

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