How can one learn to navigate a space using only one’s touch? A professional guide who has been blind since childhood holds peculiar excursions – “The touchable St. Petersburg”. Its participants roam the city and use public transportation – all with eyes wide shut. Alexander Brius had a new feel of the city
Alyona Khromova, author of “The touchable St. Petersburg” project: “We do a step with our left foot and scan the space on the left with the cane. Then repeat on the right side”
The blind ones use this cane to feel the earth under their feet. It’s absolutely necessary for those embarking on their first blind walk. I am joined by two persons on this excursion – Alina and Nastya. The author of this social project gets us acquainted. Before our trip into the darkness, she explains the rules and hands out the blindfolds. The most interesting part thus begins – submersion into oneself.
-Alexey, I brought visitors to you.
Our guide is 24. He lost eyesight when he was a kid to a doctor’s mistake. Now he helps people – teaches them to trust the others.
If you feel a puddle underneath your feet, better start walking fast.
Getting on a wrong lane is not a big problem. The most important thing is not to get entirely lost. If you hit your cane against the fence, you can move using the sound
Alexander Brius, reporter: “A reporter’s job is usually telling the viewer what you see. In this case, I can only rely on hearing, smelling and touching. All those senses surely intensify”
Alexey says those senses become more active only after long training. He barely uses a cane at all. He has developed his memory so much, that there’s a fully formed map of St. Petersburg in his head. Doctors say that not everyone’s brain reacts to the lack of eyesight in such way. The older you get, the harder it is.
Artur Baranov, head of ophthalmology department at hospital no. 19: “An adult man has a formed body. It has very little adaptive capabilities – unlike a child going through rapid development. That’s why the little ones have exceptional hearing and tactile senses”
Serious progress as shown through our example. Without much effort we’ve managed to cross a small bridge, even though it was a bit scary going downstairs from such height. The easiest route of this social action – from “Gorkovskaya” to the bus stop by Troitskaya square was covered within one hour. That’s without dense traffic, lights, cars and all other unexpected obstacles.
Alexey Orlov, guide: “People are usually hampered by other people, sewage pipes and opening doors”
Alexey has opened a new world of smells and noises to more than a hundred people with his excursions. After each one, people not only start valuing sunlight more, but also change their attitude towards the blind. This is the most important missions of St. Petersburg unique guide.
Anastasiya Titova: “Now it’s easier for one to strike a conversation with a blind person”