Let’s add compass directions to the mix (independent living skills series 15)

The van was on time and I was early for class. While I waited for class to start I talked to my classmates. There were eight of us, and our main teacher gave us our assignments for the day. I was assigned to the part-time Orientation and Mobility teacher. Since I have been struggling with street crossings we headed to downtown Pensacola. While we were driving around to find a parking spot I saw the Union Jack and Wales flags. I quickly decided on my landmark and took off.

I came to a crossing and decided to cross, but a truck went ahead and pulled out in front of me. Here in America, we have a white cane law. According to American Council of the Blind, Florida’s law states, “(2) Whenever a pedestrian is crossing, or attempting to cross, a public street or highway, guided by a dog guide or carrying in a raised or extended position a cane or walking stick which is white in color or white tipped with red, the driver of every vehicle approaching the intersection or place where the pedestrian is attempting to cross shall bring his or her vehicle to a full stop before arriving at such intersection or place of crossing and, before proceeding, shall take such precautions as may be necessary to avoid injuring such pedestrian. A person who is convicted of a violation of this subsection is guilty of a moving violation punishable as provided in chapter 318.”  The person in the truck broke the law. My teacher and I went and spoke to the driver to tell him about the law. We then went on our way. The next crossing went a little better. The third crossing was difficult, because many people tried to wave me on to let me cross, to make matters worse one person kept telling me it was safe to cross. This was kind of them, however sometimes I can not see your hand signal, furthermore I was taught to cross with the parallel traffic. I was taught to only cross when it is safe, so please do not yell for me to cross or give me hand gestures for me to go. I will go when it is safe for me to do so.

Furthermore, do not grab me and pull me across the street. If I look like I need assistance, first, introduce yourself and then ask. I may say no, and do not feel bad if I do not accept your help. If I do ask for your help be sure to offer your elbow. I will walk two or three steps behind you.

When I was feeling quite confident with my crossings my teacher added compass directions. She had me walk three blocks to a nearby park.

Then she asked me if I was ready to walk to Subway by myself. I was eager to put my skills to the test. My teacher watched from a distance and the only fault I did was I followed a hand signal-a big no-no. My last crossing was perfect.

We went to Newk’s for lunch, and I continued to practice my independence by using my telescope to read the menu. I had a ½ chicken salad sandwich and a half a bowl of loaded baked potato soup. The sandwich and soup hit the spot-yum 😊

Once lunch was over we went to the mall. I was a smart alec and showed off in front of someone who was scared to go on the escalator. My teacher had me do it a few times, and now I feel confident.

Next week I am hoping to get a video of me working.

Crossing Busy Streets of Downtown Pensacola and riding Escalators (independent living skills series 10)

Once again, I was early for class. I was excited to finally have another lesson in Orientation and Mobility. But before my lesson, my classmates and I had a few minutes to catch up on how we were all doing; it was nice to hear that everyone was doing well and that everyone was eager for their lessons.

I was to have my lesson with the assistant Orientation and Mobility teacher. Before the lesson began I had some concerns that I wanted to address. I feel that my night blindness is fluctuating more than normal. This is concerning. Some nights I can see perfectly fine, other times I can see some lights and shadows, and on really bad days I can see nothing at all. This makes me feel sad especially since a classmate recently asked me about what I would do if my sight got worse. I really do not know what I would do if my sight would deteriorate. I guess I would just adapt to life. My second concern was the color of my sunglasses. I wear wrap-around style and the color of the lenses are light pink. Even though they are stylish and fit me well, they are not dark enough in this wonderful bright Florida sunshine. My teacher said she would watch for signs of distress during the lesson.

We quickly drove downtown. The first thing we reviewed was the use of landmarks, and environmental clues to help me establish my route.

I chose the fountain that was running, the post office sign and a restaurant. We quickly walked to our first intersection, and my teacher quizzed me on the terms: blended curbs, which is where the curb and the street blends together. Ascend, which means to go up a curb, and finally, descend which means to go down a curb. Once these key terms were established, we reviewed that when there is a strong traffic surge on my parallel side then it is okay to cross the street. However, if I am unsure then I need to wait for the next cycle. I walked down to the next block, then another. Each time I was growing in confidence compared to when I first had Orientation and Mobility lessons years ago.

As I walked to the next street I noticed that Pensacola has bumpy bricks and its tougher to walk smoothly until you get used to it. By now it was lunch time, so my teacher and I stopped by Subway. It was nice to get out of the hot Florida weather. It was even better getting my belly full with a meatball sub with spinach, green peppers, onions, and a little bit of salt and pepper. I got sour cream and onion chips, two cookies to take home, and I had a Dr. Pepper to drink.

After our bellies were full, we hit the streets again. My teacher taught me a lesson of how to line yourself up if the street and domes are not centered. I nailed my final street crossing, and my teacher said my skills were great; I should be able to cross any street anywhere.

We quickly headed back to the center to check back in. Once we were checked in we were told to continue our lesson so we headed to the mall. We walked about the mall so I could practice my search and location skills. As always, we started off with finding landmarks.

The store I wanted to find was Bath and Body Works. I found it quickly due to the fact that it has a fresh soap smell which is an environmental clue. I enjoyed looking at all the products they had to offer. From there we practiced ascending and descending stairs. The only correction my teacher had to give me was how to position my elbow when traveling the stairs. This is so I will not hurt myself.

Because I was feeling so confident, I just had to open my big mouth and say, “let’s go tackle my fear of escalators.” So off we went. Once I heard the noise of the steps, my confidence decreased. It lowered even more so when I saw the steps moving.

“Come on, Amanda. Bump, Bump, step up,” my teacher said. I was clearly fearful and kept backing away from the steps even after I had felt the steps move with my cane. “I just can’t. I’m fearful,” I said.

“Yes, you can. Bump, Bump. Step on. Don’t look at it, and hold on to the rail for balance,” my teacher said once again.

I continued to protest and be fearful. An employer came over to us to check on me. I explained that I was in a lesson for travel and that I was just lacking confidence in re-learning this new skill.

After this, I did step on, but not very gracefully. Once we were at the second floor, we went around to the second escalator. Once again getting on wasn’t much better. But at least I tried it. I’m really lacking confidence. The next time I have an Orientation and Mobility lesson my teacher and I are planning on doing another lesson on escalators. I hope with time I gain more confidence and am able to step on and get off with more ease.