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Stratford man with visual impairment raises awareness through words and action

Todd MacAusland of Stratford has never let his visual impairment get in the way of living life to the fullest.
Todd MacAusland of Stratford has never let his visual impairment get in the way of living life to the fullest. - Jim Day

Todd MacAusland is a visually impaired runner determined to pound out positive messages.

Last week, he ran roughly 80 kilometres in three days along the Confederation Trail intent on raising awareness.

He wants able-vision Islanders to see the strong capabilities of those impaired by vision loss. He also hopes to inspire Islanders who have visual impairment to test their limits in pursuit of reaching their full potential.

“Running has kind of been my soap box for standing up and speaking out about vision loss,’’ says MacAusland.

The 47-year-old resident of Stratford has never let his visual impairment get in the way of embracing life to the fullest.

He was 11 or 12 when diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa - a breakdown and loss of cells in the retina that resulted in difficulty seeing at night and a loss of peripheral vision.

Still, he played hockey right through his high school years, blocking and catching pucks between the pipes.

Today, he laces up the skates to hit the ice to assist in practices with his three hockey-playing sons.

However, MacAusland had cataract surgery in both eyes in his early 30s and by age 32, he could no longer drive.

He likens his vision to looking through a frosted window with some days being a littler clearer than others.

Still, even diminishing eyesight fails to weigh him down.

“It doesn’t rule out a whole lot,’’ he explains.

“It changes the way I do things.’’

Pat Hilchey, a vision rehabilitation assistant with the CNIB, says clients and staff are proud of MacAusland’s accomplishments.

“His positive attitude encourages others with vision loss to understand and achieve their goals no matter how big or small they may be,’’ she says.

“Our many thanks to the runners who joined Todd throughout his three-day run from Summerside to Charlottetown. Way to go Todd.’’

MacAusland has worked as an electrician for more than 20 years. Today, he is officer manager in the electrical department of Entire Mechanical Contractors (E.M.C.) in Stratford where he uses a zoom text program that enlarges the images and words and even speaks to him.

MacAusland notes for the most part he largely conveys through actions rather than words how someone with a visual impairment can forge ahead.

Running, which he began about seven years ago on a treadmill, has been a strong, ongoing outlet to demonstrate his resolve.

He finds running therapeutic. He has covered plenty of ground.

He ran his first race – a five-kilometre event – in 2011. The following year, he completed a half marathon.

In 2013, he ran his first full marathon in Prince Edward Island.

He spent the next three years running marathons with his eye on qualifying for the punishing Boston Marathon.

He qualified for that iconic race in 2016 and completed the demanding trek in 2017.

“It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done – and walked away smiling,’’ he says.


Did you know?

Vision loss is a significant health issue in Prince Edward Island, where approximately 22,000 people are estimated to be living with a vision-threatening eye disease.

Among this group, approximately 1,980 have experienced serious vision loss and are partially sighted or blind.

The vast majority of vision loss in P.E.I. occurs as a result of eye diseases acquired in adulthood. In some cases, medical or surgical treatment can stabilize or improve eyesight, while in others the loss is permanent.

Source: CNIB

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