As the Saskatchewan government marks Deafblind Awareness Month in June, a local Estevan author hopes more support can be given to the deafblind community going forward.
Marie Donais Calder became legally blind in her early 30's, but still managed to publish 30 books.
"I don't call it a disability. I say that we are not disabled, we are differently abled," Calder said. "We're all different, so you can't carpet us and just say 'everyone needs this or everyone needs that. I think we need to be consulted as to what we actually do need."
In a release, the province boasted that Saskatchewan was the first province outside of Ontario to establish deafblind community services in Canada. In its 2022-2023 budget, the province announced $273,000 in funding as part of a four-year commitment to enhance the services to people in the deafblind community. It's part of the government's Saskatchewan Disability Strategy.
"Especially with blindness, I think it's on the increase. And I think that the public does need to be aware that we are struggling," Calder said. "Even out in the malls and so on...so if we walk into someone, it's just because we didn't see you. There's so much to be aware of from the general public, so I'm happy to hear that something is being done to raise that awareness."
"For the blind people we do have CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind), but they can't possibly reach everyone. So I think a lot of people that are dealing with these differently abled situations are basically struggling on their own, and it's simply because there's not enough manpower," she said.
Calder, who has no vision in one eye and very little in the other, said that although she's received some support from the CNIB, particularly with technology that has aided her writing, too often there's been not enough support.
"I struggled for years feeling like I was all alone, and I think there's a lot of people going through exactly that situation. Each day is a challenge, each step is a challenge."
"If people understood what it's like to maneuver with very little vision...so if you imagined someone handed you a pair of glasses and they were covered with vaseline, and you had to go about your day, you would get an idea of what we deal with," she said.
Moving forward, Calder hopes everyone can pay attention and show compassion to people like herself who struggle with lack of vision or hearing.
"Be aware and be sensitive to anyone that is differently abled. Whether it's vision, hearing, mobility, what ever the case may be. Be aware, and be sensitive, and be helpful."