Jaci Armstrong, National Policy Advisor at Guide Dogs Australia, with her guide dog Bess.
Whilst we have been experiencing a new way of life for the past few months, many in our community have been adapting to what’s become their permanent new normal for years while demonstrating a lifetime of ingenuity and resilience unimaginable to others.
Jaci Armstrong is National Policy Advisor at Guide Dogs Australia and a client of FutureBrand. Although Jaci’s experience with sight loss and the physical isolation brought on by COVID-19 differ wildly, her experience in adapting to change offers invaluable lessons for us all.
We are grateful that we can continue to learn from our clients and thought it an opportune time to share Jaci’s experience. It’s a reminder to our FutureBrand community of the value of empathy, resilience and optimism, as we grapple with the changing world around us.
“When I lost my sight, I distinctly remember having a conversation with my mum and her saying you’ve got two choices. You can sit at home and say your life is going to be limited or you can connect with the people who will help you find a solution, like Guide Dogs Australia. I was fortunate to be raised in an environment where I was taught to focus on a solution.”
Today, Guide Dogs Australia's portfolio of services has expanded to include much more than dogs, stretching to occupational therapy, orthoptist assessments and even classes for those with low vision and blindness to learn everyday skills like cooking and technology. This breadth of services allows them to partner with clients – from newborn to ninety – to find the solution that’s right for them.
The shift Jaci experienced when losing her sight - and understanding her new normal - runs in parallel to how many of us are learning to adapt to this changed world.
In Jaci’s own words: “Life is now different for us all and we have to find new ways to be fulfilled, productive, happy and mentally strong. We can draw from the ingenious, problem-solving ways that people with low vision have learnt to get through the grief process, and come out the other end happy with the life they have.”
The key, Jaci believes, to coming out the other side is resilience and resourcefulness.
“When people haven’t been set-up to be resilient and break through those barriers, they stay in a place of discomfort, and almost become comfortable in that discomfort, because it’s easier than pushing through those barriers.”
Overcoming those barriers alone is no mean feat and as humans very few of us want to take significant risks without knowing we have a way back if things go wrong.
“This is where support and partnership is so important. It’s having someone to say: ‘it’s not easy but we’ve got your back’.”
At a time when the world as we know it has changed, Jaci would remind us to focus on the opportunities that lie ahead, not just the challenges.
“Be adaptive. Be patient, where possible. And be receptive, as everyone is having very different experiences.”
So it may be that the world will look different at the end of all this, but as organisations and humans, we’ll be stronger for it.