Main Image: Donna Dyson re-pivoted her career after losing her sight (supplied). Listen: Donna chats to Timothy Charles about White Cane Day and her journey.
This week celebrated the accomplishments of the blind and visually impaired through the annual White Cane Day.
It’s a day to educate the world about blindness and how the blind and visually impaired can live and work independently while giving back to their communities. It’s also about celebrating the abilities and successes achieved by blind people in a sighted world and to honour the many contributions being made by the blind and visually impaired.
Donna Dyson is an APRA Award winning Brisbane songwriter, composer and Vision Australia national ambassador. She told 96five’s Tim Charles that although she lost part of her sight as a child, her attitude was very much of getting on with life.
“When I was two I tripped over and fell onto a cacti, with the thorn going into my left eye giving me a traumatic cataract. That left me completely blind in that eye. I grew up with my other eye functioning just fine and I was able to do everything that anyone else could, including driving a car.”
Working towards a career as an educator, university lecturer and academic, Donna specialised in children’s literacy before life again took a twist eight years ago.
“I was wrapping a birthday present, and in a millisecond I could no longer see the present. I’d actually had a stroke and that left me with legal blindness and ten months later my doctors found an inoperable brain tumour – that’s been the cause of my sight loss.”
Despite losing her sight and her career along with it, Donna says that she actually found her creative vision for music and songwriting. Although she had to learn to do many things such as walking with the cane, a music career blossomed as a recognition that although her eyes no longer worked, her ears did.
Only a few short years after losing her sight, Donna was working professionally as a songwriter, collaborating with artists such as Damien Leith, Lior and Tyrone Noonan (formerly of Brisbane band George).
Her work as a songwriter has been recognised with an APRA-ASA Songwriter of the Year Award. Donna has worked extensively with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, striking up a songwriting partnership with QSO cellist Allister Young.
Her other love is children’s music, an outlet she has poured her soul and passion for children’s literacy into with her Spotty Kites label.
Donna has written a song for White Cane Day, outlining her journey over the past eight years and is a song of empowerment. Listen to the song by clicking play below.
“I am very enabled, I have been empowered by that white cane. I have skills that I can offer other people – I don’t always have to ask for help. In fact I can contribute to their life and help them. It’s not about looking at someone who’s blind and thinking they’re totally unable to do something, it’s actually the opposite. We might do things differently but we’re all journeying together, and this song is all about breaking down the stigma.”