When he took the helm of CNIB Quebec in summer 2017, not only did David Demers have an impressive background, he is also living with vision loss.
Demers lost his sight just before he turned 30, at a time when his career as a commercial photographer was starting to soar.
“I had my job, I gave photography courses, I was about to become co-owner of a restaurant and all of a sudden I lost everything,” he says. “It was a major hardship. Vision loss affected all aspects of my life. It took time to adapt to my new circumstances.”
Plus, he was no longer able to work in his field.
“I was angry that my future prospects were curtailed suddenly after I lost my vision. I knew that only 30% of blind people are able to find a job, so I was very doubtful about my future and my career,” he says.
Always a go-getter, he faced the challenges head-on. He took CNIB’s adapted technology courses, learned to travel by subway and went back to university to study public and community affairs.
“I decided to take the bull by the horns and exceed all expectations,” Demers said. “I wanted to prove to the world that I was able to do more and show that even with impaired vision, it is still possible to be successful and to contribute.”
At the beginning of every semester, Demers would stand before his class and describe his vision and his needs. It helped students and teachers learn and understand.
He earned a scholarship from the Faculty of Arts and Science and graduated at the top of his class.
He decided to make vision loss his employment speciality. To get his first job, Demers called the manager of eSight and told him that he dreamed of working for thecompany, which develops electronic glasses for people with low vision. They helped Demers with his education.
To those with vision loss, Demers says, “networking is the best way to find a job.” Talk about your successes, he advises. “If your potential employer only wants to talk about your vision problem, don’t hesitate to focus on your skills.”
He’s aware the workplace is still dominated by prejudices around vision loss and he has a challenge for employers: “Broaden your horizons, you won’t be disappointed. You’ll soon realize that we are skilled, hard workers, loyal and proud to have a job.”