2017 VIRN L. P. Ings Scholarship Recipient - Tasia Knysh

A head and shoulders photo of Tasia who has dark shoulder length hair, brown eyes and smiling.
Congratulations Tasia!

I grew up with my aunt Tena who was totally blind. We took care of her for years, making sure she went to all of her appointments and keeping her house clean and tidy. I never thought that one day I would lose my vision as well.

At the age of 10 and a half, I was diagnosed with diabetes. When I was first diagnosed, I did not look after my diabetes, and my sugar levels were usually high. And I did not care! Years later, at the age of 24, I started feeling the consequences as I started to lose my sight and was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy. Suddenly my world had changed. I underwent multiple surgeries, some to remove the blood from around my retina, and a couple of cataract surgeries. The vision slowly decreased to around 20/200 in the left eye and no vision at all in the right – I had become legally blind. This was something I did not want to have to deal with at my age.

Before the diagnosis, I was working full time at the Holiday Inn, living on my own in an apartment, and had my driver’s license, so I was able to commute by myself from place to place with no problem at all. I was Ukrainian dancing, going to the club and out with my friends on a regular basis, and attending Red River College. Now, I felt like I had a whole new life that I would never get used to. I stopped socializing with my friends and stopped going out. I even dropped out of school. I went from working full time at the front desk and supporting myself, to working one to two shifts a week in the pool area and living with my parents. I had gone from being an independent young adult, to having to rely on everyone around me to do even some of the simple things like read for me. I had lost my independence and was slowly starting to fall into isolation and depression. This was not because I didn’t want to socialize, but because I was no longer comfortable around my friends and didn’t want to feel like a burden always having to ask for help. Then something changed – I was introduced to Doris and the VIRN community.

I started participating in the VIRN Mobility Mentorship program, and my outlook soon began to change. I was meeting with Doris on a regular basis, talking about the changes I was going through and how I was feeling. There were definitely lots of tears, but I was also opened up to the opportunities and independence that I could get back. Slowly she introduced me to the VIRN paddling team and the cycling group, and the volunteers at VIRN helped me with my mobility training and slowly started to help bring my confidence back to the “old” Tasia, before the vision loss. I was coming in for computer training and learning how to use screen reading software and slowly started becoming confident taking the bus to get from place to place on my own. I attended weekly group sessions at the VIRN office and we started talking about going back to school.

The thought of going back scared me completely, but I was assured that I would have all the help and guidance I needed along the way. I booked an appointment with an admissions advisor at CDI College, and now I am attending full time, Monday to Friday afternoons, in the Addictions and Community Services Worker program.

I am out and about all the time, and busy with school and work. I am going out with my friends again and gaining confidence using screen reading software and assistive technology. I look forward to the spring and summer when I can go to the VIRN paddling and cycling groups. And right now I am even volunteering and working at the office whenever I get the chance. I can truly say that in the last year and a half, through the support and help of Doris and the whole VIRN community I have come a long way. I never pictured myself going back to school, but I am now taking a program that I truly love and know I can succeed at.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to accept the L.P Ings Scholarship and know that had it not been for VIRN, and everyone’s support, this would have never been a possibility. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a long road and tough battle the last three years of my life, but I now know that anything is possible if I set my mind to it. I may not be able to do things the way I used to, but I am still able to do them. I can lead a fully inclusive life, and it can start with completing school and working in a field I love. Thank you for the opportunity and help with this through the scholarship. I could not ask for anything more and cannot think of any words to say how gracious I truly am. – Tasia Knysh