Among the people whom we should get to know better for our own benefit are our neighbors. If now and then I had spoken with her parents, Alain and Lucie, I knew nothing about Julie, apart from the fact that she doesn’t have the use of her legs. A friend of mine, Danièle, who has followed my Quartiersnord.photos project this summer, sent me an e-mail encouraging me to meet her. She had met Julie at the Champagnat Centre when she was working there as a specialized teacher. This is where Julie is completing her high school.
Now a young adult, she continues to learn there at her own pace. This way, she can follow courses at different levels depending on the subject. I thought Julie had difficulty expressing herself. Actually, if her speech requires a bit of attention, her linguistic level is excellent and she expresses her ideas clearly. French, her mother tongue, is also her favorite subject. After graduating from high school, she hopes to study in communications at CEGEP level and specialize in social media. As a second option, she is also considering social work.
She will soon be speaking at the CEGEP du Vieux Montreal in front of an audience of special education students. In addition, she often represents the Society for Handicapped Children in fundraising activities.
I have seen her a few times in her powered wheelchair on the street during her outings with her favorite accompanist and friend, Venyse. She goes quite regularly to Le Petit Flore, a restaurant on Fleury Street that is easily accessible to her, since there are no steps at the entrance. She makes a reservation beforehand and Stéphanie, the owner, who always receives her well, has a table prepared to accommodate her.
Because of the potholes and the unevenness of the sidewalks, she is somewhat fearful to go out alone. However, when she has the opportunity to be accompanied and if there is a subway station with elevators in the vicinity, Julie travels around town. She actually prefers public transportation because it gives her more latitude in her schedule than adapted transports do. By subway, she managed to go to the fireworks, to visit Place Émilie-Gamelin and, like any other young woman, to spend time on some terraces.
Previoulsy, she studied at the Joseph-Charbonneau School, which welcomes young people with serious mobility challenges. Some of them also have significant intellectual disabilities. While she was a student there, she had the opportunity to swim in the school’s pool thanks to the Espace Multi-Soleil program. Since she can only move her arms, she needs help to stay afloat. In the water, she is most comfortable on her back. She explained however that as she will grow older, her movements will become more difficult. In the mean time, she studies Pilates at home. She shares the same professor as her mother from M Studio Pilates on Fleury Street, but her program is adapted to her capabilities.
It was when she was a student at Joseph-Charbonneau that she did her biggest trip. Accompanied by her father, she went to Bretagne, in the north-west of France, with her school group. They were received by students from a school in the Lorient region and stayed together in a summer camp in Concarneau.
At this school, as well as at Champagnat Centre, students come from all over Greater Montreal and even from as far as St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. This explains that most of her friends live outside our borough. Despite her disability, she has a good dexterity and can type on a computer keyboard to communicate with them. I told her jokingly that she probably makes less typing errors than I do. In fact, it is quite likely. Thank goodness there are text correctors!
She appreciates Ahuntsic where she has lived since her childhood, because she feels relatively autonomous. With her motor chair, she has sufficient autonomy for a ride to the riverside. Perhaps one day you will come upon her in a park or on Fleury Street. If so, take the time to say hello. Julie is a very nice girl, just like her parents!