Elizabeth Chantry sits front and center in each of her classes at Timpanogos High School. It’s not accidental. Chantry, an Orem senior who will graduate Thursday, is legally blind, and needs to sit closer to better see the board.
“At this point, just everything blends together,” said Chantry, who was wearing a t-shirt hand painted by her mother to read “expecto patronum” in braille. “That’s life. Two colors are close together? They’re not colors, they’re just one color. That’s the way it is.”
In class, Chantry looks through a monocular that magnifies the board by eight times, looks down to write notes and then looks through it again. She’s had a monocular since kindergarten and uses it for everything from reading a board to checking for cars before crossing the street.
Chantry has dominant optic nerve atrophy, a hereditary condition that other members of her family also have, although their vision varies from person to person.
“I have had to learn that even though we relate to her, there are things I can see that Liz can’t see,” said Jennifer Chantry, Elizabeth’s mother.
Different types of teachers have helped Elizabeth Chantry learn to use different devices to help her in the classroom. An orientation and mobility teacher teaches her how to use public transportation, and another instructor is helping her to learn braille.
Chantry can read braille, but said she is faster with print.
“I feel like it is a good skill to learn, especially because vision fluctuates,” she said.
Chantry also plays goalball, a Paralympic sport designed for athletes who have vision impairments, and is a skilled musician. While the piano is her favorite, she also plays the flute and is working on learning the organ, saxophone, guitar, ukulele, piccolo and guitar. To see the music, she’ll get really close to her music stand, write the music on a big sheet of paper or will memorize it.
She’ll begin attending Brigham Young University this summer, and she hopes to make it into the music program in the fall and has plans to become a high school band director.
“I have always loved the music that we play and I think it would be fun to be able to continue doing that,” Chantry said.
She also wants to be on Utah’s women’s goalball team next year.
She’ll have the board magnified on her laptop screen in college, where she’ll be able to take pictures or notes from her laptop.
At Timpanogos High School, Chantry is known for crocheting 140 turtles to give to the school’s employees. She’s been crocheting turtles since the ninth grade, has made her own pattern and wanted every teacher and person who worked in the school’s office to receive one.
“I feel they don’t get recognized,” she said.
Chantry said people can react in different ways when they find out she has a visual impairment, from asking if she knows sign language (only the words for “turtle” and “blind”) or asking why she doesn’t wear glasses.
“They’re not a fix-all, believe it or not,” Chantry said with a laugh.
Jennifer Chantry said the family talked about challenges they were grateful for during one Thanksgiving. Jennifer brought up that she was grateful for her own vision impairment, and then Elizabeth followed by saying she didn’t see her own vision the same way.
“She doesn’t ever say, ‘this is my challenge,’” Jennifer Chantry said. “‘This is my life and what I need to do,’ and I think that is a really remarkable attitude to have.”
Jennifer Chantry said Elizabeth’s vision makes Elizabeth more aware of other people’s challenges. She said that Elizabeth reaches out to others in quiet ways.
Her daughter also takes hard classes simply for the love of learning.
“She is the most diligent student I have ever met in my whole life, and I don’t say that lightly,” Jennifer Chantry said. “I don’t think I have ever seen someone work as hard as she does.”