Empowerment. Engagement. Authenticity.

Speculative Fiction - V is for Victory

On August 31, 2022, twelve members of the Initiative for Blind Independence and Success (IBIS) visited the Caroni Bird Sanctuary to pay homage to the scarlet ibis, whose tenacity and determination inspired the group’s inception five years ago.

“I would sit in the blind institute braiding seagrass and the sound of their wings overhead was like a giant flag flapping in the wind,” IBIS founder Christiana Pearl said. “Every day they trek cross country for food. I started thinking if we ever wanted to learn to read and write or learn to cook or even play sports, we had to make it happen. No matter what people said, we had to try and try again.”

Pearl says she knows that awareness precedes accessibility. In the summer of 2016, she invited Kristy Kassie, creator of PUSH Yourself!, a Canadian program designed to motivate people with disabilities, to speak at the Blind Welfare Association of Trinidad and Tobago. Also invited was Shawn Kirkpatrick, Head Programmer for the Loadstone GPS Project, one of the first navigation tools designed by the blind, for the blind.

“They’re blind and if they can succeed, we can, too,” Pearl insisted. “Progress does not only happen in first world countries. Self-driving cars, speech synthesizers, audible pedestrian signals all make it possible.”

Since 2016, IBIS has hosted Braille literacy courses at local libraries, implemented a peer mentoring program to develop both academic and recreational skills and hosted workshops to teach daily living techniques such as clothes labelling and money identification. One of their major goals is making tourist attractions accessible through described tours, like the excursion to the Caroni Bird Sanctuary.

“People can tell you what something looks like,” Pearl explained, running her hands over the spread wings of a life-sized scarlet ibis sculpture she held in her lap on Friday, “but if you don’t have pictures or colours in your head to reference, you miss out on a lot. Until I could feel their shape and features and weight with my hands, I had no idea. Their wings feel like a vee. V is for victory. And sitting here, surrounded by the sounds and scents of the wetlands fills me with a real sense of independence. That’s why we chose Trinidad’s 60th Independence Day for this trip. We’re celebrating our independence, too.”


 (c) Kristy Kassie, 2016

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Speculative Fiction

Speculative fiction refers to a story set in the future, near or far, which doesn't contain fantasy.

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