Mediaplanet Tell me about your experience being visually impaired — were you born blind? What’s the cause? How much sight do you have?

Chelsea Mohler I was born with a severe case of Glaucoma and have never been able to see properly. I have a very small amount of vision in one of my eyes that allows me to see lights and colours only. I am able to read by using brail, screen readers, and voice software.  

MP How have you found breaking into the workforce has been affected by your vision?

CM It is very difficult - People have a lot of different and sometimes negative attitudes towards hiring someone who is vision impaired. People don’t think we can keep up with the demands of the job, however they don’t understand how advanced assistive technology is and the things it enables us to do.

I currently work at Tangled Arts + Disability which promotes artists who have various disabilities and also tutor at the University of Toronto. I also do contact jobs as a Research Assistant for the Canadian Institute for the Blind (CNIB). In the past I have worked at a Toronto restaurant called O. Noir where I was a server. It is a really interesting place as it invites everyone to experience food, drinks, and conversation in the dark.

MP What false assumptions or misconceptions do you think people have about the blind community?

CM A really big one that I notice is that people have a misconception that the just because I am blind that means I am not physically active – this is not true at all, I am an avid runner, cyclist and a rower!

Another misconception is that the blind struggle to live independent, fulfilling lives. This is not true at all. With so many advances in assistive technology, I am able to function similar to someone who has sight and enjoy every day to the fullest. 

"Our goal in the blind community is to do our best to remove these barriers and create awareness so that examples like this change and become more universally acceptable."

What tends to bother me is that people have a fear because they don’t understand – people don’t know how to approach people who are blind and in the process end up making false assumptions. They may not ask what we need, but assume that we need a specific thing – this stems from fear as they cannot imagine themselves as being in my situation.

MP Do you find that some people have treated you differently because of your disability?

CM Yes definitely. However it works both ways. Some do and some don’t. It typically depends on if they have had experiences with someone who is blind or vision impaired.

People that treat you different have never had an experience with it, having exposure is the key for people to understand.

MP What’s something that most people don’t know about the blind community?

CM There are so many barriers that are put up that people don’t even think of. For example, mostly anywhere where you go that requires you to fill out paperwork is not friendly to blind. Since they do not have any alternative methods for me to fill out forms, I then need to come back on a later date and bring a friend or relative with me as I do not want to be giving someone whom I do not know my personal info. Our goal in the blind community is to do our best to remove these barriers and create awareness so that examples like this change and become more universally acceptable.

MP What’s next for you?

CM I am hoping to join dragon boating this summer and get back into rowing again. The organization is called the BPS Dragons and includes a mixed team, some blind and some sighted. We are a competitive team that takes part in several different races throughout the summer months. I am really excited for it!