Imagine you’re walking to the store. You hear someone nearby. The person could simply be passing by. But maybe the person plans to hurt you. You don’t know their intentions because, although the person can see you, you can’t see them. And that’s because you are blind, and the person who may or may not mean you harm knows this.
“You’re an easy target,” said Veronika. “You don’t know if they mean harm, all you know that if they do, then you won’t see it coming.”
There was a time in her life when Veronika felt vulnerable like this. She was 23 when the retina detached in her right eye – a complication from Type 1 diabetes. Six months later, the retina in her left eye detached. Within a year, she had lost her vision, and her life changed completely.
“One night, I was just rocking back and forth on my bed sobbing, and feeling very sorry for myself,” said Veronika. “Then I heard Mariah Carey’s song “Hero,” and at first it made me cry even harder, but then the words seeped in, and I decided to focus on what I could do.”
Veronika sold her car, bought a used piano, and signed up for kickboxing, so she could protect herself when she needed to. But even with her can-do attitude and warrior spirit, Veronika wasn’t able to do everything independently at that time.
She had dropped out of school halfway through the third year of her science degree.
“I thought, without sight, how was I going to do this? I just felt all my plans for my life were cancelled out,” said Veronika. “But CNIB gave me hope.”
CNIB referred her to an orientation and mobility specialist, who teach participants how to travel safely within the community utilizing either a white cane or a guide dog, and also referred Veronika to an independent living specialist, who helped her live independently on her own.
It was the late 90s, and the equipment she would need to complete her program, like a computer, scanning and screen reading software, cost thousands of dollars, which Veronika didn’t have.
Thanks to CNIB’s services, made possible by United Way Winnipeg donors, Veronika was able to receive these supports fully funded.
“A year after dropping school and thinking I couldn’t continue my education, I was back in school.”
Veronika graduated from university and worked as a conservation biologist for a few years before deciding to try her hand at something new as a life coach, and now as a self-defence instructor.
She’s also working with Ambutech Inc. on a sturdy and strong cane for use in self-defence, which will be coming to market soon.
Over the years, complications from her diabetes have required Veronika to have multiple surgeries, including four stents for her heart, a kidney transplant, and a pancreas transplant. She has retired from work; however, she volunteers at United Way Winnipeg as a Speakers Bureau member. She also volunteers at CNIB, and in these COVID-19 times, she does life coaching and yoga instruction via Zoom for blind and partially sighted people all over Canada.
Through coaching, she hears all kinds of stories of people losing their sight, some gradually, some all of a sudden and without warning.
“It could happen to anyone, and in our community, we want to know resources are there if we need it,” said Veronika. “When you give to United Way Winnipeg and support CNIB, you’re making a huge difference in helping people be independent and empowered.”
* CNIB delivers innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empower people impacted by blindness to live their dreams and tear down barriers to inclusion.