Your disability takes you out of your comfort zone.

Thursday, March 17, 2022 at 11:00 am – His life changed in 1995. He lost his eyesight due to a work accident. 27 years later, his disability is digested and Frédéric Gauthier sets no limits.

The air is mild, the sun is good, and it was at his house, at his charming home in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, that Frédéric arranged for me to meet. I ring the doorbell and he opens the door for me with his service dog at his heels.

A little awkwardly, I extend my hand. We go into the living room and that’s where he tells me what happened in ’95.

“I was a truck driver and on the road I had a problem with my brake system. There is a brake on the trailer that has overheated. Going to see, there were flames. I wanted to put out the fire with my fire extinguisher and that’s when the tire exploded. It made me go blind instantly. I lost vision in my right eye and left eye, after several operations the doctors managed to restore some of my vision. Which is still very useful. -Frédéric Gauthier

Frédéric does not hide from me that the first years were very difficult. But, by dint of meeting people who are also visually impaired, it allowed him to minimize the situation. Realizing that he could fulfill himself despite everything and that he had the potential to do so.

“My disability took me out of my comfort zone. I started doing things I never thought I would do. Things that didn’t attract me before and that I do today. It’s weird, but that’s what happened to me. »


When I hear Frédéric tell me everything he does, I am impressed. It’s as if he’s decided to give his nose to life. He can do amazing things despite his disability. Starting with the kitchen!

“My philosophy of life is to try. Try to see if we can. How can you say you can’t if you haven’t tried. »

Admittedly, cooking without eyes remains a challenge, but over time, Frédéric developed many tricks. His talking scale and talking thermometer help him enormously, but on the other hand, when he’s baking bread, he’ll know it’s ready by the sound. When touching it, he will hear if it sounds hollow or not.

“When I make a recipe, of course I do my best and the presentation sometimes leaves something to be desired. (Laughter) I’m going to focus my cooking more on flavors, I don’t compromise. It has to have good taste. »


In 2007, Frédéric went to the UQAC (University of Quebec at Chicoutimi) sports pavilion and discovered the athletics track there. She was a revelation.

“The surface is brown, the lines are white. It was easy to follow the course with what little vision I have. So I signed up. That’s how I started running and since 2015 I’ve been doing triathlon. »

Since moving to Saint-Hilaire, Frédéric has been jogging and, with his wife, Stéphanie, has practiced tandem cycling, cross-country skiing, alpine skiing and hiking. It must be said that the mountain is on the corner of the street, and it is easy for him to have access to it.

“It is true that sometimes it is more difficult, but it is doable. With someone who guides me well, I can do a lot of business. (Laughter)”


Even if he doesn’t see much, Frédéric loves to travel. He tells me that you don’t travel with just your eyes. We travel through smells, sensations, things we hear, people we know and talk to. We travel differently, but we travel the same way! He tells me that since the accident he has visited places he has never been before. He went to Gaspésie, Estrie, Mexico and Cuba. With his wife, who is French, he went to France and Spain.

“When you go south, what surprises me every time is when you get off the plane, it’s like opening the oven door, it’s hot! (Laughter) Otherwise, in Cuba, it’s the warmth of the people that I find special. I feel their smile when they say to me: Hola! »


Losing his sight, Frédéric became aware of his five senses. His hearing, for example, has not been exploited to its full potential. He learned to really listen. When he is at the Longueuil terminal, for example, he is able to orient himself precisely thanks to the noises that usually go unnoticed, but which he hears.

When I ask if it’s his most developed sense, he replies, “No, it’s smell.” He remembers that a few weeks after the accident, he was lying on the couch in the living room and his mother was in the kitchen. At one point, he told her, “Hey! You are cutting celery.” She said, “How so? “He told her, ‘I can feel it,’ that’s when he realizes he can see otherwise.

“(Laughter) I’m a bit like a dog. The nose is really my most developed sense. I usually smell everything I touch and sometimes I have to hold back. (Laughter) When I go shopping with someone, let’s say, I don’t have to make them feel what I’m touching. I have to suppress it a little sometimes. »

Speaking of dogs, his is starting to surround us. It’s time for a walk and we go out for a walk in the neighborhood. Arriving at the corner of the street, Frédéric takes my arm and says: “Do you smell the bread?” I stop, close my eyes and focus. After a while I said, “Yes! I smell the bread. It smells good!” He tells me that Le pain dans les voiles bakery is not far away. Smells often serve as a guide. Like now.


“When I go to Europe, what I notice first is the noise of the cars and then the smell. It’s funny to say, but to me, France, it smells like an exhaust pipe. It seems that the fumes are more present there than here. Particularly in winter. And I find that a little disturbing. »


“There are good smells in Gaspésie. But these are scents I already knew a little about. I smell the seaside, because I come from La Baie and the water is salty in Saguenay. On the other hand, when I go to Gaspésie, what I find exotic is the accent! I also have accents, I come from the lake, but they are different and I find that interesting. It catches my ear, in a good way. (Laughter)”


“We are like at the junction of the urban environment and the countryside. Sometimes it smells like exhaust, sometimes it smells like agriculture. Depends on the season and wind direction. And with the mountain close by, there are also a lot of good smells. »


“In autumn, I really like the smell of leaves starting to decompose. And later, when the ground freezes over, well, that’s different. When the ground is frozen, we smell less. The smell of rain will also vary. Let me explain. For example, in summer, when it’s hot, the first rain that falls always has a special smell. Whereas if you have continuous rain, you go out; don’t feel the same. Every season has its variety of scents and I love it. »

Thank you, Frédéric, for allowing me to enter your rich and colorful universe. It was a privilege for me!

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