Remember the excitement and anticipation of finishing high school? Being on the brink of independence; looking forward to scoring your first job; moving out of home; or travelling the world? That’s precisely where 17-year-old Emma Jago is right now.
Currently in Year 12 at Marist College in Burnie, Tasmania, Emma has the world at her feet, and her white cane by her side.
Emma is congenitally blind with minimal to no light perception. She’s the youngest of four children, which Emma says “never stops me from winning all the fights”.
Blind from nine months of age, Emma grew up with her sighted siblings, doing everything that they – and other kids her age – could do.
There has never really been anything that I didn’t think I could do,” says Emma. “There have been times where I haven’t been sure if I could do things in time, like being stuck in the rain while waiting for a bus!
Emma has a passion for staying active, and is involved in a number of activities including scouts, going to the gym and rowing, where over the years she has won several medals at national level.
But Emma admits her lack of vision has affected her independence in the past. She has struggled socially, and says “it’s difficult to make and keep friends, and often people are uncertain how to treat me”.
Unlike many 17-year-olds, Emma is unable to get her driver’s license, and at times has found the public transport system “incredibly frustrating”.
There are people who give up, and there are people who will let nothing stop them. And Emma will let nothing stop her reach her goal of being independent.
Emma’s family has recently moved to Ulverstone, and she has been working with VisAbility Tasmania to increase her orientation and mobility skills, so she can travel around her local area.
“VisAbility has helped me navigate the main routes in my new town. I also have somewhere to go now while waiting for public transport in the town where I go to school.”
VisAbility Orientation and Mobility Specialist Sean Cromwell has been a key part of Emma’s journey to independence. Together they have worked on several routes around Burnie, where Emma goes to school, so she can stay involved and hang out with friends.
“We’ve supported Emma with her orientation and mobility skills so she can travel around Burnie to bus stops, the library, Coles, Kmart, and cafés,” said Sean.
“We’ve also helped Emma receive funding through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to participate in the Guide Dogs Victoria Senior Orientation and Mobility Camp, where students were challenged to develop their travel skills in a busy city environment using trains, trams and navigating around Melbourne City.”
Emma is learning to cook, with her latest creations being apple crumble and apricot chicken. She is determined to learn everything she can to become truly independent.
“To me, independence means functioning with as little help as possible from people in day-to-day tasks and general living,” Emma says.
VisAbility has helped me achieve my goals by focusing on my needs, and not what they think might be good for me to learn.
What’s next for Emma? The sky is the limit. But one thing’s for sure, nothing is going to break this girl’s stride.
VisAbility Tasmania’s professional therapy and support services assist people across a range of ages and disabilities in their homes, at school, at work and in the community. Ready to change your life? Call 1800 484 333 to book a consultation today.