Sudbury’s Robert DiMeglio was born with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic disorder that affects the retina's ability to respond to light. As a child, DiMeglio wore glasses at school. It wasn’t until his twenties that RP robbed him of the majority of his sight.
At the time, DiMeglio was working in construction.
“When I had to quit my construction job, that was the worst,” says DiMeglio. “I spent a number of years on ODSP [Ontario Disability Support Program] and things were rough. I didn’t have much confidence in my ability to be independent.”
One day, however, DiMeglio decided he needed to embrace his new circumstances.
“I wanted to become a pro at my situation. I wanted to be awesome at being blind,” DiMeglio says. “You need to try and take your blindness and use it as an ability. Once you’ve learned to live with your blindness, you can do whatever you want.”
DiMeglio’s brother also had issues with his vision, so the family was familiar with CNIB. He decided to learn braille and how to use adaptive technology such as screen readers and closed-circuit televisions. He also signed up for independent travel instruction, and orientation and mobility (O&M) training.
“The O & M was one of the most crucial pieces of the puzzle for me,” says Dimeglio. “It allowed me to travel independently again.”
With his newfound confidence and skill set, DiMeglio began teaching in Belize, Central America. As part of his internship, he taught braille users about assistive technology. He also taught school administrators about software programs for students with vision loss and helped with developing training programs that could be implemented once he had left.
“The work empowered me,” says DiMeglio. “It gave me energy.”
Upon his return, DiMeglio continued to work in the accessibility field. He worked as a computer trainer at Independent Living Sudbury Manitoulin (ILSM). DiMeglio also spent time in Self-Managed Attendant Program Direct Funding. Now, he’s the Executive Director of ILSM. In this role, he’s responsible for hiring, which gives him a unique perspective on working with individuals with vision loss, and other disabilities.
DiMeglio notes that employers still have a long way to go with regards to their hiring practices.
“A lot of them just don’t know. There is this great untapped market of skilled workers that are not given a proper chance,” says DiMeglio. “We need to provide more education. Employers need to know that individuals with disabilities, including vision loss, can do the job.”