In 2008, the alumnus’s vision was snatched by Leber hereditary optic neuropathy, a degenerative vision disorder. With the help of an orientation and mobility specialist, he had to memorize every dip and turn of his daily commute.
“It took me a whole summer to navigate just the two or three stations I needed to go to,” Demers says.
His sight declined rapidly. Like a candle in the wind, his left eye went blind. Doctors were unsure whether his second eye would follow. Then, one day two months later, Demers drove to work and, by 5 p.m., he couldn’t drive home.
He says that for the next two years, his perception continued to worsen.
Back up and at ’em
Not even 30 at the time, Demers took a year and a half to accept and adapt to his new state. As a businessman, photographer and aspiring restaurateur, he had a lot to lose along with his vision.
He eventually decided to return to school, enrolling in Concordia’s Department of Community and Public Affairs and the Department of Philosophy. With the help of his eSight glasses, electronic goggles that enable the legally blind to see, and Concordia’s Access Centre for Students with Disabilities, Demers graduated four years later at the top of his class.
“The centre was phenomenal,” Demers says. “Without them, I don’t think I would’ve succeeded.”
One semester, for instance, the then-student opened his new schedule and discovered he had a class at Loyola Campus, located about eight kilometres from the downtown Sir George Williams Campus, where all his previous classes had been.
“I was really stressed about it. I had never been there and I knew I would have new buses to take,” he recalls.