“I can see something in front of me, but it’s hard to discern what it is”

Norman Richard holds up two CNIB publications that feature him and his story. Millicent McKay photo


Nov. 2, 2016

Norman Richard was seven and playing catch with his brother when he noticed he was having trouble seeing.

He and his family didn’t know the cause of the problem.

“I was having trouble at school and catching a ball, but we had no idea what was wrong,” Richard said.

Finally, in 1986 that a 30-year-old Richard was told his optic nerve was dead and nothing could be done.

“When a nerve is damaged, it’s damaged, nothing can be done for it, and that’s what was causing my visual impairment.”

Richard can see light and images.

“I can see something in front of me, but it’s hard to discern what it is.”

Now 62, Richard reflects on what helped him come to terms with his impairment.

“It wasn’t easy. It was a hard time. We had a family reunion in 1985 and what helped the most was something my cousin said to me.”

“You don’t see good, but your four other senses have doubled. Wake up and use them like before,” his cousin said.

From there, he began accepting what he was facing.

In 2001 he accepted help from the CNIB, learning how to use a white cane.

“It’s not called a cane, it’s called part equipment, and once I heard that I decided to give it a try. It will never be easy, but once you accept it, it’s no problem.”

His family has been his greatest support, Richard said.

“I can’t speak for them, but I think they took it hard. They were so helpful and they did everything they could to help me. They’re happy with the accomplishments I’ve made.”

It’s important for people to understand the difficulty that comes with being visually impaired, Richard said.

“People think they know what you’re going through, but unless you have it, you don’t understand.”

Trying to maintain his independence, Richard is learning to cook.

“I’ve had the same advisor from the CNIB and we’re starting safety techniques like walking with the cane, how to get around the house and the streets. We’ve also started learning to cook, but I haven’t made anything yet.”

Richard is writing a book about his journey, with the proceeds going to the Mont Carmel church.

“It was my father’s idea. He told me to write one and then I heard that the church needed some repairs, so I decided to go through with it.”

Richard has a computer system that talks back to him as he types.

“It was expensive to put in, but it’s a big help.”