Gabriel has another 20 years of sight and he’s determined to help others with disabilities lead fulfilling lives

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Gabriel Gervasoni was told at 18 that he’d be legally blind by the time he’s 40. Now at 20, Gabriel has another 20 years of sight, and he’s determined to make the most of it.

When Gabriel was born, his mother Mandy noticed something unusual – when her son looked at people, he was really only looking at the direction the sound was coming from.

As reported on ABC News, although the doctor tried to reassure Mandy, her instincts led her to seek out a paediatrician for a second opinion. This resulted in a two-decade search for answers where he was given multiple diagnoses.

Finally, at 18, it was Gabriel’s ophthalmologist that confirmed his suspicions after running a series of tests.

Gabriel was officially diagnosed with an “ill-defined form of retinal dystrophy” and told that his vision will gradually deteriorate, and he’ll be completely blind by the time he’s 40.

Gabriel’s story isn’t uncommon – in fact, more than 450,000 Australians are currently living with vision impairment or blindness.

However, he is determined to not let his impairment stop him from furthering his community and enjoying life to the fullest.

“I realised when I was young, being vision impaired, I wouldn’t have as many opportunities as someone with full vision,” he told ABC News.

“So I decided that I’ll do as much as I can to support the community and to raise awareness for people with vision impairment and disabilities in general.”

Gabriel joined the City of Ballarat’s Youth Council and the Central Highlands Youth Advisory Board to represent the needs of young people and ensure their voices are heard. As a young person with a disability, he draws on his lived experience to help shape the city’s health and wellbeing plan, as well as provides input in redevelopment projects.

Katja Fiedler, a youth development officer with the City of Ballarat, says Gabriel’s insights and experiences are invaluable in creating a space that’s accessible for everyone.

“It’s really, really important to get his insights as a young person who is visually impaired, especially when it comes to accessibility but also refurbishing,” Katja says.

“What could or should a space look like to make it inclusive, accessible, enjoyable and accommodating for young people with vision impairment but also other disabilities?”

Gabriel was named Ballarat’s Young Citizen of the Year for 2021 and commended for his passion in issues affecting youth and those with disabilities.

“Making sure people have access to employment, education, community spaces and social activities, that’s very important to me,” Gabriel says.

At 20, Gabriel has another 20 years of sight.

“People who can see might walk past certain things without really noticing it, because they’ve probably walked past it a million times and will pass it another million times.

“But for me, I walk past it and I don’t know if it’s going to be the last time I see it or not.

“I want to imprint everything I see so I can appreciate it.”

Find his full story here.

 If you, or someone you know, has been diagnosed with vision loss, Vision Australia has resources that can support you through this life transition.

If you are experiencing any sudden changes in your vision, you can use our Find an Optometrist search tool to find help near you. Please note some optometrists offer home visits and this can be selected by ticking the ‘I would like a home visit box’ and checking when calling for an appointment.

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