Local business takes new steps to help visually impaired

Nick Seebruch
Local business takes new steps to help visually impaired
Shawn Maloney

CORNWALL, Ontario – Shawn Maloney, one of the co-owners of the Brick Cornwall has spent much of his life dealing with blindness.

You would not know of Maloney’s impairment just by looking at him though. Maloney suffers from a degenerative disease that is slowly robbing him of his sight. He has completely lost his vision in his right eye and is legally blind in his left.

This loss of vision is not always outwardly evident though. Maloney wears glasses, but not large, dark sunglasses and he does not walk with a seeing eye dog or a white cane.

Maloney is a patron of Summit Fitness, next door to the Brick and takes Cross-fit classes there. He says that Summit has been good at accommodating someone with his impairment.

“They don’t take it esay on me, but we adapt,” he said. “They’ve been really good at talking with me and working with me to meet my needs.”

He says though that he does have trouble sometimes navigating stores, especially if they are poorly lit and have cluttered aisles.

Maloney has endeavoured to learn more about the kind of blindness that afflicts him. He has medical background and a Ph.D. He studied at McGill and was a part of a Harvard research group experimenting with stem cells to find a cure for his type of retinal degeneration.

A native of Cornwall, he returned home after his father offered him a place in the family business at the Brick. When he got here, Maloney reached out to the CNIB to find out what his store could do to help the visually impaired.

The CNIB is the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. They offer help to the blind, those who are going blind, or those who want to support them. The CNIB has an office here in Cornwall.

Maloney and his staff at the Brick will be holding a one hour training session to learn about accommodating those with a visual impairment.

“I felt we should be doing something to accommodate someone with a vision problem,” Maloney said. “I’m hoping that this gets the ball rolling with other organizations in the area and that they take up this challenge too.”

Maloney says that the first step is getting educated about the problem.

“Eight out of 10 people registered with CNIB have some functional vision,” he said. “Most people are oblivious that I have a vision problem. I’ve wished for the comfort of going somewhere and people not being unsure of how to help someone like me. Creating more awareness would make things more comfortable. They say its more difficult going blind than being blind and that’s partially because people have a certain idea of what blindness is like.”

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