Sneak Peek at 150 Stories for Independent Living Across Canada #3- “Blind Freedom”–Erin Lacharity’s Story
“Blind Freedom”–Erin Lacharity’s Story
“My freedom in my independent life is essential”
My name is Erin Lacharity. I have been totally blind since birth due to Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). I am 37 years old and have been living on my own since 2008. I live with a roommate of two years, Heidi Propp, who has also been totally blind since birth. There are several ways in which I am fully independent. I use a long white cane which helps me to efficiently navigate the surrounding areas of my apartment and the city of Greater Victoria. I have also learned various home management skills and life skills throughout my life and have honed them through the Pacific Training Centre of the Blind which has given me more self-confidence which has increased my independence. I also have various technological aids which help me with tasks such as writing, being part of social media and domestic tasks such as cooking and identifying the various food items in my kitchen.
My long white cane and my iPhone are vital tools that I need in order to travel on my own. The cane helps me to identify my surroundings using tactile landmarks and the subtle changes in the concrete that allow me to know various information about the area that I am currently travelling. My iPhone has a GPS app that lets me know of the surrounding streets which, in turn, helps me to figure out where I am. My iPhone has a screen reader called Voice Over which has made Apple’s Smartphone totally accessible for the blind. I use it for social media programs as well as a travelling companion. I go onto Facebook, Twitter, skype and other social apps regularly.
Throughout my life my mother has constantly pushed me to be as independent as possible. She has taught me many valuable skills that will and have helped me throughout my life and have propelled me to where I am today. She has taught me home management skills such as cleaning the kitchen, bathroom, dusting wooden furniture, washing windows, etc. My mother has helped me to hone my independence skills and has been the driving force behind my success as a self-reliant confident blind woman. She has and will always be my support, my rock and my encouragement in my life.
The Pacific Training Center for The Blind has been a vital part of my life in recent years. Elizabeth Lalonde, my friend and mentor for many years, is the executive director. She has shown me that, with perseverance we can achieve any dream that we set our minds to. I graduated from this program in March of 2015. I have learned valuable skills in travel, braille, home and employability skills that I will take with me throughout my life. I learned how to efficiently navigate busy street crossings, locate different stores and how to label various kitchen items to name a few skills taught at the center. This program has greatly helped me with becoming even more self-confident and continues to be an inspiring aspect of my life.
In conclusion, my independence has been achieved due to the constant efforts of my mother to teach me important life lessons and skills which are vital to be a self-sufficient young woman. The PTCB has also helped to show me that confidence in oneself is vital if we are to stand on our own as people with disabilities living independent lives. My iPhone and my white cane and many other tools that I use such as my Braille Sense U2 Mini help with reading and writing, social media and travelling on my own. My independence has not only been taught to me by inspiring people but through technological aids and through struggles that have occurred in my life which I have overcome. For instance, graduating from university with a Bachelor’s Degree with a major in Women’s Studies would have been a huge challenge if it had not been for the support of family, friends and tutors who helped me to achieve this goal. My freedom in my independent life is essential and important to me. Though I may struggle to prove that I can do something that appears to be easy to a sighted person, I will indeed achieve the desired goal because I am a strong blind woman who believes that she can do just about anything her sighted peers can do with equal training and opportunity. Even though we are people with disabilities, we are still able to live free, happy and independent lives. I am totally blind and I am free!
** We will post one story every day this week from the wonderful people associated with the VDRC who decided to share their stories. Stay tuned for a new one tomorrow!