WORKING WITH WORDS: Bette Shiels teaching Ros Matthews, who is vision impaired, how to write.
WORKING WITH WORDS: Bette Shiels teaching Ros Matthews, who is vision impaired, how to write. Max Fleet BUNVIS

Blind in the write class

WHEN Bette Shiels signed up to tutor a creative writing class with Centacare she never expected she would be teaching the blind.

Ms Shiels said what started as a creative writing class for older people who wanted to write their memoirs, soon transformed into something she could never have imagined.

"Soon I was introduced to a couple of vision impaired people and then two more came along and now most of the class are vision impaired," Ms Shiels said.

"They're wonderful, happy people and it's just the light of my life. I've seen a whole different, new world."

Ms Shiels said her students didn't consider themselves disabled and she herself often forgot they were blind.

One day in class Ms Shiels said she asked her students if the sun was too bright and if they'd like the curtains closed, only to be met with a roar of laughter.

"'We're blind,'" Ms Shiels recalled the response from her students.

"Everything is done with a sense of humour - they just see the lighter side of life."

"I just wouldn't miss these classes for anything, they are wonderful."

The latest project Ms Shiels has given the students is to write about life as a blind person.

She said the responses had been incredibly inspiring.

Student Patricia Stillma wrote that "living with vision loss is not difficult".

"Living in (a) predominately sighted world creates difficulties," Ms Stillma wrote.

"Like most people with vision loss, I try to create a safe and blind-friendly environment for myself.

"This, of course, would be much easier if I lived alone."

Ms Stillma said the saying "a place for everything and everything in its place" was probably coined for the blind community.

Ron Doyle said in his piece he felt sorry for sighted people and all they had to do.

"They can see walls that need painting, floors that need cleaning and lawns that need mowing," he said.

Mr Doyle said being a visually impaired person was not "the worst thing in the world".



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