Seeing through the eyes of others


Allison Birnie and Esther Funk

Although wheelchair accessibility is important, accessibility for people experiencing visual impairment is equally important. The thought of not having the ability to drive to the Co-op grocery store, watch the Neepawa Natives hockey game, or see the face of a loved one is not in the forefront of our minds on a daily basis.

How well our eyes work greatly affects our ability to perform the tasks needed. Individuals living in our community are living with visual impairment and the consequences of this disability every single day. The Town of Neepawa is taking steps to increase accessibility in the community. A recent Open House was held at the Town Office to gather public opinion on the Accessibility Plan for the Town of Neepawa.

According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) website, the number of Manitobans living with visual impairment is 17,244, with an expected 30 per cent increase in the next 10 years. Vision does not work like a camera. Vision involves the cones (colour) and rods (shades of grey) present in the retina to form an image based on the amount of light present.

A major risk factor of vision loss in Canada is age-related macular degeneration, with other leading causes being diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts, being over the age of 60, cigarette smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and a family history of age-related macular degeneration. The CNIB indicates that 75 per cent of vision loss can be prevented through early diagnosis. Prevention measures can be taken through regular eye examinations; wearing eye protection while playing sports or doing home repairs; wearing sunglasses with 100 per cent U.V. protection, even in the winter to reduce the risk of cataracts; quitting smoking to reduce the risk of cataracts and to lower the risk of diabetic complications; managing diabetes by maintaining target blood sugars; and reducing your risk of macular degeneration by maintaining a healthy weight and decreasing your intake of saturated fats.

The Town of Neepawa is taking active steps to improve accessibility for their population. You can do your part for your health by understanding the mechanism of vision, how it affects you and those who have lost their vision, and how you can help create an accessible and welcoming environment for those with visual impairment in the Town of Neepawa. Refer to Canadian National Institute for the Blind website at for more information on visual impairment and the Town of Neepawa website for more information on the steps being taken and how you can help.

Allison Birnie and Esther Funk are Nursing Practice VII Students from Brandon University