Life Through a Different Lens

Life+Through+a+Different+Lens

Everyone sees life through a different lens, no one will ever have quite the same experiences or perspective as someone else. One person may struggle to make a living their whole life, while someone else could have everything handed to them on a silver platter. Getting to see life through someone else’s perspective can be truly eye opening. 

This is part of Laura, a mom of three living in France’s story and life through her lens, so to speak.

Laura’s life begins with her guide dog, Flash. Flash rarely leaves Laura’s side, he takes the bus with her, goes to work with her and is truly Laura’s partner in crime. Sadly after a few years Flash will retire and Laura will receive a new furry friend. 

I lived with Laura and her incredible family for just over a month in France, this was an especially eye opening experience for me due to this being my first opportunity to spend a lot of time with a visually disabled person. I had to learn to be extra observant and helpful during my stay with my billet family in order to not disrupt the solutions her family had implemented to help Laura in her daily tasks. Her children always made sure everything went back to its original place, as well as assisted her with tasks like counting change. 

My billet mom’s condition was less of a disadvantage to her and more of a different lifestyle all together. She never complained or asked for sympathy, her only request was slight assistance every now and then. 

Even though she did not request or expect special treatment, we often got to skip lines or have a staff member personally help us. Specifically at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. A staff member brought us to the front of the line to buy tickets, then brought us right to the start of the line to go through security. At any museum or tourist attraction we would always be on the hunt for signs directing us to the handicap or disabled line up, this line normally meant that a staff member would help you through the process of security and tickets. This line always happened to be insanely shorter than regular lines. 

Another example of skipping long lines was at the famous Louvre museum of art. Here we also had a weird experience going through security. I had not yet experienced anything strange surrounding the fact that I am not only not from France but I also shared no physical similarities with my host family. I was the last to go through security and the staff member sternly told Laura and Marielle, my exchange student, to please keep going and get out of her way. They quickly informed her that I was in fact with them and they would be on their way once she let me through security. At first I found this very startling to be isolated from my temporary family but the security staff simply apologized and let me through without further hesitation. 

Laura is not only completely blind as an adult, but she has been blind since birth. 

Some stereotypes, biases and assumptions I was not even aware I had, were proven to be incorrect, such as my false belief that most or even all blind people knew how to read braille. One afternoon, while on the patio, Laura showed me that she was teaching herself braille. She had a big booklet, sort of like a textbook, she was using her fingers to detect where the dots were. How she knew which letter she was learning I will never know. She never learned as a child, but now that the modern world is using more and more braille she has decided to learn.

For the vast majority of her daily routine she manages just fine on her own with Flash. She can even tell which card she is using (debit or credit) by putting it up to her face so that she can faintly see the colour. One of her cards is a distinguishing bright blue and the other is a gorgeous gold, this makes it easy for Laura to tell them apart since the colours are so vividly different. 

Laura, just like every other person, used her phone constantly to communicate; however she uses it in a different manner than most. She has turned on a setting that allows her phone to read the time, text messages, emails and any other text or image. To answer a phone call she simply has to double tap anywhere on the screen and the same thing goes with how to hang up. This truly shows just how incredible technology really is and how advanced we have been able to make it.  

Having the opportunity to live and spend time with someone with this type of handicap is insanely eye opening. It truly ignites the realization that even something as simple as the five senses, is nothing to be taken for granted.