I was born in a small town in northern New Brunswick. I was premature, and was placed in an incubator. The light setting was too strong and it burned my retina, so I have been blind pretty much since birth. Nowadays these things do not happen.
During the first few years of my life I was unable to participate in regular childhood activities because I could not see to run, see toys to play with, and was often at home with the adults, so I grew up very fast.
I attended the School for the Blind in Halifax. There I learned daily life skills, academic, social and musical skills – piano and singing which I still love to do when I can! I worked for a little bit as a liaison between the teachers and the younger children at the school whose first language was French, until they could speak better English. I enjoyed that experience.
After graduation, I returned to my home town. I took various courses and as a life learner, I enjoyed seminars on self-development.
I worked in two day cares. I would create stories to tell the younger children, and involve them in the story. I also taught myself how to take a child’s temperature through feel, as I could not read the thermometer!
My last employment was in adult education. Anyone, including the general public, those with low-vision or the non-sighted, could attend classes to learn braille or computer with voice over. This was grade two braille – shorthand style. I would make an exercise list of words in braille then after they learned the words, I would give them sentences to write using the words. I developed a pre-exercise braille for those who were just starting. If I wanted to achieve success for the students, I would work out my own strategies for teaching them!
You may wonder if I can see colours. If something is green, I know that the grass is green, so I imagine the texture and the colour of the grass, same for red for an apple, although I don’t really see the colour – I associate the colour with something that is part of my everyday life. For orange – I think of an orange; for purple I think of spirituality. Chakras have different colours – purple is a spiritual colour, so I associate it with something really nice.
In some dreams I supposedly see, but I don’t truly see because the brain can’t give you something you have never seen. Let’s say you are at the corner of the street – a sighted person would run up to greet you. In my dream, someone would say “Louise is at the corner”, and will guide me to you ,or my dog will guide me, so when I am holding the harness in my dream, I am not seeing, but if I go towards you then I know that I can see in my dream. It is hard to describe.
Before I went to get my first guide dog, lots of folks told me not to bother. I had people to guide me and I would tease them saying “You are my dog for today” , or they would ask “Can I be your dog for the day?” . I realized that if I got a dog I would not need to depend on people so much. I called the school (MIRA Foundation – a school for training guide dogs) and they told me I had to show how I could walk with a white cane first! I was no good with the cane, so I went to the school and now I am on my fourth dog, so I must enjoy dogs!
The difference with having a guide dog is that I am more independent – take the harness and off we go! Streets should be made much more accessible, then I would be able to go all over the place. However, many streets and sidewalks are not friendly towards blind people. I can find my way around with help of the dog – finding traffic lights and curbs to cross busy roads and so on.
I am now retired and volunteer in the community. I have helped raise over $50,000 for the MIRA Foundation. I enjoy socializing. I use the latest technology for the non-sighted in order to communicate with friends all across Canada.
My message for the world is that if you ever meet me, be comfortable enough to come over and have a chat!
A la prochaine!