Vision loss didn't stop Peter Nikolantonakis from helping fellow Montrealers see the bright side of life.
Described as a fixture in the Greek Montreal community, Nikolantonakis lost his eyesight 15 years ago, but he quickly learned how to read and type braille as well as get around the city on his own.
After he was hit by a car, he says he knew he had to draw attention to the dangers people with a visual impairment face daily.
He's been advocating for the safety of people living with a visual impairment ever since.
"I survived [the car accident], but it really shook me up," he said.
But drivers aren't the only threat.
Distracted pedestrians glued to their cell phones have bumped into Nikolantonakis many times while he was walking on the street, he says.
Nikolantonakis is calling on everyone to pay more attention to those sharing the road with them.
"You can't live life worried some person will crash into you," he said. "It reached a point where nothing's happening so you have to raise your voice."
An avid writer, Nikolantonakis publishes monthly posts on his blog — Peter's View — where he provides insight on the daily challenges and triumphs of living with a visual impairment.
Nikolantonakis invites readers to explore all five senses through a variety of exercises, including identifying sources of sound only by listening and examining the texture of foods through touch.
Lina Mortimer, his cousin's wife, describes him as a "keen public speaker" who is passionate about educating others about vision challenges, and he serves as a reminder of how important the senses are.
His cousin, Costa Nikols, calls the self-motivated Nikolantonakis an inspiration.
"He lost his sight, but didn't let his blindness overcome who he was," Nikols said. "If ever there's a righteous cause that needs a voice, he's always the first to step in."
Before embracing the positivity he's now known for, Nikolantonakis had to work himself out of a dark place. After losing his vision, he says he felt depressed for a period and grew resentful of friends who have eyesight.
He spent four months inside his home, grappling with a reality he says he "couldn't get over" until one day, he accepted that he needed to adapt.
Calling the Montreal Association for the Blind and asking a caseworker for help on how to navigate with a walking stick was his first step toward regaining independence.
A month later, he found himself in therapy sessions, which helped him cope with his experience.
"If it wasn't for that, I don't know where I'd be today," he said.
No matter the obstacles, Nikolantonakis continues to use public transportation.
His older cousin and namesake remembers how Nikolantonakis withstood a record-breaking snowstorm downtown alone, just to keep an appointment.
"I'd like to believe that he represents the best of all Montrealers," he said. "No matter how bad things get, no matter how much snow … we never stop, and that's what my cousin Pete is all about."
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