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Opening Doors

Editor's Note: Anthony TibbsAnthony Tibbs was the recipient of the NFB:AE?s 2002 Business, Education and Technology Scholarship. He is entering his third year of the Bachelor of Commerce Honours program. *Image: Anthony Tibbs at a lap top computer, as his guide dog looks on.

Two years ago at this time, I was finishing up my last year of high school and preparing to start my life as a student at the University of Ottawa. Amid all the preparations for leaving on what was my first extended flight from the home roost to get a guide dog, I received a welcome (and somewhat unexpected) piece of news from Gord Dingle, then President of the NFB:AE:

On behalf of the National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality, I would like to congratulate you on the success of your scholarship application. You are an accomplished individual who is very deserving of this award. The scholarship committee was very impressed with your skills and confidence.?

This news, in short, was a tremendous relief to me. As anyone who is a student can attest, constantly wondering about finances does not make it very easy to concentrate on academics. To the NFB:AE scholarship committee, therefore, I say ?thank you!? for putting your trust and belief in me.

And what has life been like since then?

First, as I did prior to receiving the scholarship, I continue to monitor the NFB:AE?s activities, and I do what I can to advocate at the University level, when time permits.

To that end, together with a handful of other dedicated individuals, I have succeeded in establishing and securing funding for an organization to represent students with disabilities at the University of Ottawa. Naturally, my own focus tends to be on those issues that most directly affect blind and vision-impaired students, though given the organization?s goals, I must keep an eye out for everything else as well.

We operated on a tight budget in the 2003-04 academic year, but the centre should be fully operational by September. My project for the summer is to make sure that that happens!

This endeavour is, perhaps, just one way for me to give back to the community that has been so generous to me over the past couple of years. I have had my share of accessibility problems at the university level, but through my efforts and those of other like-minded students, I am confident that we can improve the situation for those who follow in our footsteps. Had it not been for the NFB:AE putting its faith in me from the start, it?s anyone?s guess whether I would be where I am now.

I mentioned in my original scholarship application that, after losing much of the vision I had in October 2000, ?I adopted the outlook that life would go on, even if it was a little bit different?. I still believe that. And I still believe that with the appropriate amount of resolve and determination, anything can be accomplished?.

In closing, on behalf of all the past, present and future scholarship recipients, I commend the NFB:AE for opening doors to growth and higher learning opportunities that might otherwise be closed to many in our community.