To celebrate World Sight Day, a global event that raises awareness of blindness and visual impairment, we spoke to a musical explorer who is seeking out new destinations.
Lizzie Capener (37) is an opera singer who lives in London’s Crystal Palace. She suffers from retinitis pigmentosa (RP) a degenerative condition which caused her eyesight to deteriorate over the years. Lizzie had trained as a secondary school music teacher but when she was officially registered severely sight impaired in 2013, she had to give up her job. “It’s a bit tricky keeping track of a room full of teenagers when you don’t have your full sight,” she told Lonely Planet. Lizzie now teaches music workshops to primary school children but regularly travels up and down the UK as an opera singer. Last year she commuted regularly to Manchester when she was a judge on the BBC reality music TV show, All Together Now.
For Lizzie, one of the biggest frustrations of travelling as a blind person is the lack of consistency with assistance in public transport. “There’s such a different range of assistance, at times it can be wonderful but at times I’m left to my own devices and that can be a little overwhelming,” she said. “I can get a bit nervous and anxious in crowded stations and as I can’t see who’s approaching me from the side, I end up bumping into people, which can be a bit awkward.”
Lizzie praised the assistance at her local Tube station in Brixton and said that they’re used to her comings and goings. A staff member will regularly approach her and make sure she gets to her destination safely. “They’re really good at approaching and asking if you need help,” she said. “They’ll put me on a train and phone ahead to the next station to let them know when I’ll be arriving and where I’m sitting. When I reach my destination, someone will get on the train to escort me to the exit or take me to the next train.”
Visually, Lizzie can slightly make out what’s in front of her but has no peripheral vision. Regardless, she lives an independent life and gets around through the use of a cane (although later this year she’ll welcome a guide dog). Losing her sight hasn’t put her off travelling and she regularly enjoys trips abroad. She recently travelled to Italy, Iceland and France, although she prefers to travel with a companion