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Adventures of a Blind Single Parent

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Joyce Main is a person who believes strongly in participating in her community. She currently lives in Toronto. Here's her story:

I faced many challenges as a blind single parent in the 1970's and 1980's.

I tried to create a comfortable home environment and build supports that would endure throughout our lives. The family budget included things we were mutually interested in such as sports, music, puzzles and mystery movies. Our lifestyle focused on an organized daily routine with opportunities to teach cooking and other domestic skills.

Cecillie and Mike got used to the way I did things without sight and didn't think I was much different from other moms. When I did ask for assistance, both of them helped me, always respecting my independence.

Facing the Challenges

I abandoned my plans to get a Masters in Teaching because boards were not hiring or accommodating blind teachers. I also held a certificate in Business Administration and Accounting and had worked for Revenue Canada and Communication Canada. My best chance in obtaining a lucrative career again was to major in Political Science, Law and Public Administration. Ontario Vocational Rehabilitation Services enrolled me in a Bachelor of Social Work HONOURS program.I obtained two Degrees using Scholarships, Forgivable Student Loans and money from my grandmother. I also completed a placement with the Sudbury Labour Council in fourth year Community Development.

As a member of the President's Advisory Council, I helped acquire a Kurtzweil and Visutech for the university. I retrained in orientation and mobility, worked with a guide dog and studied braille.

Reading services offered by the University Women's Association were declined when the president told me that talented disabled persons like you should have a segregated university.This attitude was also reflected in the psychologists who administered testing each year when I was being assessed by the government for further funding. A third year Social Psychology professor and Dean of the School of Social Work (former West Point Officer) tried to discourage me from taking the course. I told him he couldnt stop me because I was an honours student and the fee was paid. His method was to profile each student and try to find a breaking point. There were 40 students at the beginning of the semester. He told other faculty that since I was a short older single parent with a severe disability, I would be the first to drop the course. Twelve of us completed that elective.

Class notes were on a tape recorder, and faculty allowed oral exams for all third and fourth year courses. Many of my textbooks were on reel-to-reel tapes from

Recording for the Blind in New York. I found policy documents at the audio library, Trent University, in Ontario. A friend read Canadian Anthology, and another Chemistry Major read political science for me. Both Mike and Cecillie developed better language skills by reading for me and in later years, they even critiqued my assignments and practicum's.

Our Memories

I was Family Activities Director in the local chapter of Parents without Partners. The focus was that members have the opportunity to do things with children in their custody, as well as children who could visit them. Elsa, Cecillie and Mike camped at Provincial Parks, went on sleigh rides, explored historical sites and museums, visited the Toronto Zoo and Safari and saw Niagara Falls. Our Chapter hosted a corn roast and hayride for 200 members at a local farm during the haying season. The children went on hayrides and then camped out over night.

Mike drove the tractor when he was 8 and drove a car on country roads when he was 12. He went on field trips with geologists and learned computer skills in state-of-the-art computer labs at Laurentian University. He played football, basketball and hockey with out-of-province and international students.

Cecillie and I sang harmony at her High School Band rehearsals held at our house.

I competed in the Regional, Provincial and National Games for the Physically Disabled from 1978-1986. Cecillie and Mike sometimes trained with me and cheered me on in every event. I am sure their support gave me incentive to win medals and qualify for the Olympics in Holland.

I still recall the pride I felt when I saw Mike in Air Cadet dress uniform on parade.

He also did stand-up comedy in the school talent show and won first prize. We worked together on a campaign to elect his mentor/my Law professor as Federal

Member of Parliament.

One afternoon we listened to a friend play classical guitar while we were doing laundry--his name--Bryan Adams, at that time a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Psychology Department at Laurentian University.

Cecillie finished college and obtained a good job. Mike lived with me until he went to Europe to complete his education. Both learned positive responses to stereotype attitudes and how to work for community change. Together we found ways to get the job done, each contributing aptitudes and skills that we continue to use today.