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Active: But Not An Athlete

Editor's Note: Richard Marion is President of AEBC's Lower Mainland Chapter in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Picture: Richard Marion and Bradshaw

After much procrastination, I am finally writing about my activities as a blind person. When I was first asked to write about my activeness, I thought that perhaps there was a mistake. I am definitely not an athlete, and for those who know me really well, I am sure they would agree that an active lifestyle is not portrayed by my body type. But as I further gave the topic more thought, I realized that an active lifestyle does not necessarily mean being an Olympic athlete, but can mean just keeping yourself busy and involved in your community.

Over my lifetime so far, I have tried to keep myself busy with work, volunteer and social activities. As I grew up and in my early years, I was always encouraged to explore my interests outside of school. As an adult, I continued to practice this. As a result, I became interested in advocacy and community involvement right out of high school. Also, along with this, I pursued my interest in music and, when I could afford it, travel. Needless to say, these activities, along with my full-time job, keep me very busy.

The full-time work I am involved in is with a small business my family operates. It is a trucking company with a truck repair shop. No, I am not driving but sometimes I wonder if some people who drive today are as blind as I am. But back to my work. I am the business manager and deal with all the day-to-day general business activities. This includes some of the bookkeeping using software packages that present challenges with the speech software I use on my computer. At some point, I will take the time to research more accessible bookkeeping software that works better with JAWS, my screen reading program.

Over the years, I continue to ask myself, "Why do I keep doing what I am doing?" The answer never really comes to me. I know there have been times when I have reduced my volunteer activities and focused on my hobbies and paid employment. But since blindness advocacy is part of me, I find myself continuing to make this part of my life. The difference now is that I have managed to keep things in perspective and ensure that I continue to pursue my recreational interest in music by singing with a community choir. It is because of my interest in music that I have also increased my travel activities out of North America, and have gone to the Czech Republic twice for a choral school in Prague and to a singing workshop in Cuba.

I would say that the first time I travelled outside of North America, I did have some apprehension. Much of this was centred on my blindness and how it would impact my ability to travel in new countries, but also it was because of the fact that I was flying the longest distances I had ever flown before. In addition, since I was taking my guide dog to Europe, there were issues that had to be addressed. But in the end, I was successful in getting to Prague, and was able to enjoy the music and cultural activities that included drinking a bit too much Czech beer! If people have never travelled before, I can say that the opportunity to combine two interests is a worthwhile way to get to see parts of the world we have always wanted to visit.

I am a person who really does not like writing about myself. I think that my achievements are not really extraordinary. But on the other hand, many of us have not been as fortunate as I have been to have supportive family and friends who encourage me to overlook my blindness and try whatever I want. I consider myself to be quite normal and many times don't think what I have done is worth celebrating or acknowledging in a special way. But if the fact that, as a blind person, I can travel overseas independently demonstrates that blindness should not be a barrier, well, this is as important as some of the frontline advocacy I do on issues like the impact of quiet cars on our safe mobility.

If we all can stay active in our own ways, we will achieve great things as a community, and perhaps my sighted peers in the choir will also learn music by memory like I do! In my life, I have definitely tried to keep my activity level quite high. Now, I just need to work on my Olympic fitness level.

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