It was slightly awkward, a bit cumbersome, and even costly, but carrying her laptop with a webcam around Lake Trail Middle School to make videos was an outlet for Kayla McDonald.
Fortunately, not only for her arms but for her future business, the self-admitted shy student quickly began shooting short videos with a handheld camera she received for Christmas.
“It was a really fun thing to do,” she says with a smile.
Fun, and unique; at very least, not the first hobby one would associate with a vision-impaired individual.
After graduating from Highland Secondary School in 2012, McDonald took one year off school to examine what she wanted to do.
She considered photography or visual arts (and took courses in visual arts at North Island College), but decided to take the plunge: “I thought, ‘why don’t I start my own business?’
“I was told about two women-in-business courses at the Wachiay Friendship Centre, and wrote a business plan.”
McDonald then secured a loan through the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Economic Development Corporation and began creating videos.
With the help of the Comox Valley Art Gallery’s Youth Media Project, she produced two professional films – Diversability and Let’s Jam for Lush Valley Food Action Society.
But then McDonald hit what she describes as “a lull – I was so close on thinking about getting (a regular job), but then I thought, ‘no – I need to give it a chance.’ ”
Trying to find ways to support her business wasn’t a challenge McDonald was unprepared for, as she has been overcoming challenges her entire life.
McDonald was born with retinopathy of prematurity – a disease which occurs in babies born prematurely, and causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina, which can cause the retina to detach from the back of the eye.
She says her parents didn’t tell her she was legally blind until she was 10 years old.
“Before then, I just thought I could see like everybody else. People ask me how much can I see, but I don’t know what 20/20 vision is like.”
Her left eye is worse than her right, but while she doesn’t use the assistance of a white cane or someone to help her walk around, she says she’s grateful to have the sight that she does.
“… I’m just really thankful that I can see and be a videographer here in the Valley. It’s really amazing to meet so many people, and people have given me chances to prove myself and my business, and it’s slowly getting off the ground.”
Last December, McDonald joined the #WeAreYQQ entrepreneurial community, and after an April meeting, walked away with six contracts for videos.
She credits the group with pushing her outside her comfort zone, particularly with networking.
McDonald has created promotional videos for a variety of local businesses and events, including Elevate the Arts and Atmosphere Festival.
When she’s not working on developing her craft, McDonald can be found riding horses at the Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society. With more than eight years of riding experience and practice on 28 horses, the experienced equestrian says she found a connection with one horse in particular.
The great-great-grandson of Triple Crown winner Secretariat, Scout – a 17-year-old thoroughbred gelding – and McDonald share a connection.
“Scout’s a thoroughbred who is disabled; he’s helping others with disabilities. He works just the same as all the other horses.”
During his racing days at Hastings Park, Scout – then named Real Trouble – suffered a stroke, damaging nerves on the left side of his body and in his left eye. The New Stride Thoroughbred Adoption Society took in Scout and had to remove the eye.
Owner Hilary Doucette connected with CVTRS in 2014, and he was a perfect fit with the riders, and in particular, McDonald.
She notes riding Scout allows herself and other riders the ability to forget their disability and they get to have fun while riding.
McDonald’s busy summer has been filled with shooting and editing videos for the #WeAreYQQ series, Filberg Festival and most recently Kids Art for KidStart – a volunteer-based mentoring program offered by The John Howard Society of North Island.
She also works in social media management and works managing pages for the Wachiay Friendship Centre and CVTRS.
For more information, visit kaylamcdonaldvideoproductions.ca or find her on social media.