9th National Meeting of the Italian Aniridia Association
Pisa (Italy), 26th-28th of May 2017

After the meeting in Milan in 2016, where we listened to many persons and understood their different needs, Aniridia Italiana has decided to organise a meeting for adolescents and young adults to deepen our knowledge about senses, personal autonomy and independent living.

Our objective was to provide more information about the possibility to reach a real autonomy in its manifold aspects, from orientation and mobility skills to daily life at home to interpersonal relationships, by using the ability to integrate all the information coming from the different senses and to interpret it through the use of logics.

We were supported in this task by Paola Cataneo, the president of ANIOMAP, the Italian Association for Orientation, Mobility and Personal Autonomy, and by Laura Corsi, one of her instructors colleagues.

But what we really relied on for our meeting was the quickest, most powerful and innovative software that was implanted in the mists of time on the most ancient computing machine: the human brain. This software is “intelligence”, described as the ability to perceive or deduce information, and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviors within an environment or context. And this is what the “I” on #iOmap stands for (the other initials are: orientation, mobility, autonomy, personal – but this hashtag can also be read as the ability to “map” our “self”, “io” in Italian).

The meeting on Saturday morning was focused on daily life at home, with practical examples of housework and organization of the interior of the buildings we live in, with the aim to demonstrate that performing some tasks with a visual impairment is not as impossible as it could seem.

After lunch, the participants were split in teams to play with their ability to recognize noises, songs, voices. The capability to recognize a noise is essential to develop a quick response mechanism, in terms of action-reaction, in many daily life situations.

Two women with sun glasses among vegetables in a storeOn Sunday morning, the participants were involved in a very challenging task: to go alone into a supermarket with a list of four different categories of items (fresh vegetables, fresh foods, packaged foods, personal hygiene products), find them and pay them at the cash desk. For safety reasons, each participant was followed by a sighted person that had to stay silent, without giving any suggestion.

Youth bending down to see contents on store shelvesIt was very interesting to note that all participants used integrated sensorial perception and logics, but no one used the other tool that had been suggested, that is, asking the staff or the other customers for help. Which probably means that we have to keep working on the emotional side of our interpersonal relationships, overcoming the idea that requesting help is a weakness. It is not. And this issue will shape our next meeting.