Discover the world vicariously

On the interactive whiteboard, in front of the class, a photo is projected. We can see two African children writing on notebooks with colored pencils.

In fact, only half of the students see image, partially; the other half of the students are blind. We are at the Jacques-Ouellette school, in Longueuil, an establishment that welcomes students with visual disabilities. In this special class, the pupils are between 15 and 21 years old, they have acquired primary level knowledge and they follow a program for integration into the job market.

On this Friday morning, their teacher Sandra Prémont describes in detail the image of the two Tanzanian children, who are discovering colored pencils for the first time in their lives. The message that accompanies the photo invites students to cherish the chance they have of having all this school material.

In the class, the students heave a sigh of tenderness. “It warms my heart…”, says Laurence Dolbec, 17 years old.

Once or twice a week, Sandra Prémont presents to her students the publications of the Instagram page Full their eyes, powered by Quebecer Edith Lemay. Edith and her husband, Sébastien Pelletier, are on a year-long trip to show the world to their four children, three of whom have retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that causes gradual vision loss.

By proxy, Sandra Prémont’s students also experience this great adventure. And they are obsessed with this activity, which is part of their course in the social universe. “If the schedule changes, they take care of reminding me! says the teacher.

That day, Sandra also describes photos to them of a fishing boat on Lake Nyassa, of a woman preparing cassava, of a sandy beach, of children eating sugar cane… She describes the type of housing, the color of the sky, the textures, the atmosphere… Several students have lived with their visual impairment since birth.

The students remain silent, attentive. We really feel amazed.

“I am very easily able to imagine travel. I find it really beautiful, what they do, says Laurence Dolbec, blind since the age of 2 years. I would have liked to experience that, too, before losing my sight. »

When Sandra told them about it for the first time, the students were touched by the destiny of the three children of the Lemay-Pelletier family, who, unless scientific progress is made, will lose their sight during adulthood.

“It’s valuable that they’ll lose their sight, but when they can’t see anymore, they’ll be able to travel anyway,” emphasizes Laurence, who herself has several travel dreams in mind.

“No one chooses their difference or their handicap, but we choose how we live with it,” adds Florence Brodeur, 19. Chloé Pelland-Lambert, 17, agrees. “If you’re blind, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything; you’re just going to live life differently. »

The students also wanted to show us the premises of their program, the CFER, where they learn to shred documents. “In business, they are so resourceful,” concludes Sandra Prémont.

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