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NICHOLAS MERCER: Discovering perspective

An adult camp for the visually impaired opened the eyes of one Saltwire Network columnist.
An adult camp for the visually impaired opened the eyes of one Saltwire Network columnist. - 123RF Stock Photo

Winston Penney grabs the back of my arm as we start to navigate the Lion Max Simms Memorial Camp, located a couple of kilometres off the Bay d’Espoir highway.  


He was directing me to the facility's games room where I planned to interview him and a couple of others about the adult camp taking place for the visually impaired. I was going to be his guide. 
The act itself was short. I didn’t have to lead Winston very far or for very long. It was a couple of minutes from the main lobby to the games room and then back to the dining room where Winston planned to join a couple of friends for dinner. 
When I reached the dining room, my time here was finished and it was off to another assignment in another town. 
Still, as I left the Max Simms Memorial Camp, something nagged at me. I started thinking about what I had just experienced and how a visual impairment would impact my life. 
I don’t have to think about speed or incoming objects when I walk. I did have to remember my speed, provide needed audio directions and be mindful of where Winston was stepping. 
In 2019, privilege is a word used a lot. I guess you’d call having full use of my sight my privilege. Experiencing the briefest of moments helping someone without that same ability made me think about the things I take for granted. 
I have glasses, but I don’t think that qualifies me as being anything close to visually impaired. I’ve never had to avoid walking into walls or how to navigate through a world that isn’t designed for me. 
I’ve never had to walk at a slower pace as a way of self-preservation. Reading a book by feeling the pages is something I’ve never been forced to do. 
It was like that scene in a movie where the door creaks open to reveal a major plot item to the film’s protagonist.  
The door to this alien world creaked open a touch and I was able to get small peek inside a world of which I have no experience. 
As I led Winston through doorways and away from piano benches, I thought he’d have every excuse to be melancholy about his experiences. 
Perhaps earlier in life he did, but not here. 
Today, Winston greeted everyone with a big smile and a hearty laugh. 
He took my hand in his and cradled it for a couple of minutes. I assume he was getting familiar with its feel in case fate brought us together again. Then it would be his way of recognizing me. 
His handshake was firm and his greeting was enthusiastic. 
He spoke a mile a minute — perhaps the quickest I’ve heard someone speak — and ended every sentence with laugh. 
Shamefully, I’ve never paused to think the world he lives in isn’t engineered for him. There are caveats to make life easier, but it isn’t one that ensures he lives the way I do. 
I think we should find one and until there is, I am going to help out wherever I can. 


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