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White Cane Club demonstrates living with vision loss to District of 100 Mile House Council

Mayor and council wore glasses which simulate various eye disorders to better understand vision loss
District of 100 Mile House Mayor Maureen Pinkney wears a pair of glasses designed to simulate what it is like to see with macular degeneration at a Committee of the Whole meeting last week. The disease causes loss of the central vision needed to see detail for activities like reading or threading needles. The glasses were part of a presentation by the 100 Mile House White Cane Club. The District is inviting various non-profit and service groups to meet with Council in an effort to get to know more about them. (Fiona Grisswell photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

100 Mile House’s mayor and council got to see the world through a different lens last week.

Lori Fry, president of the 100 Mile House and District Blind and Visually Impaired White Cane Club, provided council with glasses that simulate various eye disorders that cause visual impairment. She asked that they wear them during a Committee of the Whole meeting. Couns. Donna Barnett and Ralph Fossum were absent.

“It’s really not wonderful,” said Coun. Jenni Guimond, who was wearing glasses that depict Diabetic retinopathy, which can cause spots and dark strings to float in a person’s vision plus dark or empty areas. “I just keep moving my head side to side trying to see in between.”

Fry, who attended the meeting with a delegation, said she and others face these types of challenges on a day-to-day basis. Picking up her white cane, she explained it is a symbol of blindness, courage and independent spirit.

“It might seem silly but you won’t believe how many people don’t know why we’re carrying it,” she said.

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The delegation hoped to raise awareness of the issues the visually impaired face as they try to navigate life in 100 Mile House. She said the club appreciates what 100 Mile House has to offer but feels there is a long way to go in making the community safer for everyone.

Fry is visually impaired by the genetic condition, stickler syndrome, which causes a fault with her eyes’ retinas that makes them tear overtime and detach. During the meeting, she asked who was wearing the glasses, as she can only see shapes with no details.

Coun. Dave Mingo, who was wearing a pair of glasses that simulates having cataracts, told her “it’s pretty foggy” to which Fry asked if he wanted to go for a walk in the dark.

“I’m going to be hitting stuff if I did that,” he said.

Mayor Maureen Pinkney chose to wear macular degeneration glasses. Macular degeneration is an eye disease that can blur the central vision. It happens when aging causes damage to the macula — the part of the eye that controls sharp, straight-ahead vision. Imagine looking at a moose through binoculars. The trees are visible around the edge of the lens but the moose in the middle is missing.

“Oh boy,” she said, explaining her aunt also suffered from this vision loss.

This is not the first time a member of council has experienced what it is like to have a visual impairment.

In 2021, then-mayor Mitch Campsall wore a pair of glasses for a walk along Birch Avenue. Using a white cane, Campsall was guided along a walkway between the library and the South Cariboo Business Centre with the assistance of a club member.

After he removed the glasses Campsall breathed a sigh of relief.

Katelyn Seiler, who suffers from retinosa pigmentosa, asked council what had come from Campsall’s meeting. A number of issues had been raised about hazards that make walking around the downtown area dangerous for those who are sight impaired. One of the solutions was to paint yellow caps on the posts at the library. Currently, they blend into the concrete sidewalk.

Director of Community Services, Todd Conway assured the group that the issues raised are part of the plan to revitalize Fifth Street.

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This card describes the vision impairments the glasses worn by Council simulate. (Fiona Grisswell photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Fiona Grisswell

About the Author: Fiona Grisswell

I graduated from the Writing and New Media Program at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George in 2004.
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