“Every day is an opportunity to educate people,” says Julie Martin, a community reporter with Accessible Media Inc. (AMI), a not-for-profit media company serving the blind and partially-sighted community. An unconventional opportunity to do that presented itself recently when a bout of pleurisy landed Martin in the ER minutes before her scheduled weekly broadcast on AMI-audio’s Kelly and Company. “They were about to do a chest X-ray and I asked the doctor if they could postpone it for 15 minutes until after I filed my report,” says Martin. The doctor and nurse listened in another room, afterwards expressing awe at the program and how they planned to tell their partially-sighted family members about AMI.
The more I watched AMI-tv, the more confidence it gave me, and it made me realize that I wasn’t the only one who felt like this or has struggled with certain challenges.Julie Martin
Discovering AMI helped rebuild confidence and self-worth
Martin, 59, a resident of Pictou County, NS, is partially-sighted herself. Born with retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive disease that causes gradual disintegration of the retina, Martin at first chose to ignore her condition — until age 31, when doctors told her she was legally blind. She struggled with isolation, self-worth, and daily living challenges for years until 2012, when she discovered AMI while visiting friends. “I thought it was just brilliant,” she says.
Martin began tuning in to AMI-tv and AMI-audio regularly, soon after becoming a member of the AMI research panel and offering feedback, which was incorporated into the company’s programming. “The more I watched AMI-tv, the more confidence it gave me, and it made me realize that I wasn’t the only one who felt like this or has struggled with certain challenges,” she says.
Now, as an AMI-audio community reporter, she’s hearing other people’s stories and listening to reports from across Canada. “I’m taking what they’re saying and using that to improve my life,” says Martin. “It also gives me the ability to educate the sighted community, who are trying so hard to ensure accessibility and inclusion of the disability community.”
COVID-19 exacerbates daily living and isolation challenges
For people who navigate the world by feel, the need to physically distance and avoid touching things due to the COVID-19 pandemic makes independent living that much harder. “As a result, many visually-impaired people rely on others for shopping and errands and stay at home more, which adds to their isolation,” says Martin.
AMI’s inclusive and accessible programming helps keep Canadians connected. Martin’s advice to others in the blind and partially-sighted community? “Just check it out. There’s so much you’re missing out on if you don’t know it’s there — from new technologies like adaptive tips for your cane to how to set up inclusive programs in the community.”