Riding Escalators, trying Barbecue Chicken Wings, and learning to pour liquids (independent living skills series 13)

The van was actually on time, and I was on time for class. I was early enough to talk with my classmates. Soon we all gathered in the conference room to be assigned our lesson for the day. I, along with another student, was assigned to an Orientation and Mobility lesson. I had worked with this classmate before and she told my teacher and I that she felt better with me coming along because I was willing to do the lesson first.

My classmate lacked confidence with riding escalators, and I wanted to be sure I was 100 percent confident that I could go on and off with ease, because of this, we asked our teacher if we could do a lesson on escalators. Since I had a few lessons before my teacher decided to go to a different location than the one I had previously went to.

Once I saw the moving stairs and heard the sound of the escalator I lost my confidence. My teacher took it slow and getting on was easy. I really need to get some grace when it comes to getting off. Going up is easier for me than coming down; my guess is because of my depth perception and balance. I still went down the escalator though. Then it was my classmates turn. She was nervous, but I am proud that she faced her fears.

Because our nerves were so shot we went to Starbucks. I had a cookie and a sweet peach tea. My classmate had a piece of cake and a sweet peach tea, while our teacher had a coffee. We enjoyed our snacks, and headed back to the center. When we got there, we followed the smell of garlic to the kitchen. Come to find out another one of our classmates had been baking Barbecue chicken wings and had been making a side salad.

The chicken and salad were tasty. A classmate and I tried a tangy avocado dressing. The dressing really complimented our salad quite well.

Once our meal was eaten and the dishes were cleaned and put away I worked on learning how to pour hot and cold liquids.

I feel more confident with how to pour liquids now. However, I am starting to question my future. Being visually impaired can be quite expensive. So I asked my teacher about ways to save for the future. The simple answer is to start a savings account just for my equipment that is related to my disabilities. How do you guys save for equipment? Is there a special program or organization that can help? Tell me in the comments below.

I am not sure what my next lesson will be on. It is a mystery.

What I did today. My classmate took this photo.

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Plans Change: Job readiness (independent living skills series 12)

I was an hour and a half early for class. I was eager to do well with my Orientation and Mobility lesson. There was a wild rain storm outside, and I was glad that one of the staff members made my classmates and I coffee and popcorn to munch on while we waited for class to start. However once our teacher came in to tell us about our assigned lessons we found out that Orientation and Mobility was canceled. We were given a choice: either take Job Readiness or Assistive Technology (AT). Since I’m doing fine with my Alexa Echo Dot I decided to stay for Job Readiness. We had two new students joining us, so we first went around the room and introduced ourselves.

Today’s lesson was on how to handle your first day on the job. We talked about the first day jitters, and how no matter if you have sight loss or not everyone gets nervous. The main thing to do is to stay focused on the task that you are to complete. I asked about having a job that you hate, and my teacher’s response was, “eat humble pie.” At this point, his Iphone came on saying, “Sorry, I can’t do that.” The whole class cracked up laughing. His phone continued to act funny by playing music, since he was having problems with getting the music to stop, we joked that he should be taking AT. He finally got his phone to stop by hitting the power button 😊

We continued our lesson with him telling stories about blind and visually impaired people showing hard work ethic and having success. One story that touched me the most was about a blind man and his wife who traveled across The United States.  This thing made me raise a question about family members that are not supportive of your dreams and goals. You see, my dream job is to be able to be a freelance journalist and travel the world. I know to be able to do this I must have thick skin and to be able to have confidence and great travel skills. That is why I am pushing myself so hard with my classes and the volunteer work that I am doing.

Despite my dream, one side of my family wants me to fit the typical stereotype of someone with a visual impairment: Get on disability and stay at home. I refuse to do that. I see myself being independent and happy.

I almost burst out in tears when both my teacher and another classmate said the way to get them to change their minds is to have confidence. That would have a stronger impact then having them attend any “Walk in my Shoes,” program; however I wish they would attend a program like that so they could better understand the training that I have received.

Then we broke for lunch. I ended up having a sweet tea, chicken sandwich with fries from Chick-fil-A.

After lunch my teacher and I did a mock interview in front of my classmates. It was nice for me to get critiqued by my classmates. I did pretty well except for the “why should we hire you?” which is a way for the interviewer to ask for the history of the company. You can also mix in your own personal connection to the company at this time. The other question I struggle with is “why do you want to work here?” this question should be answered by connecting two to three skills that you have with what the employer is looking for, as well as how your career objection fits in with the need of the company.

The last part of the class we looked at examples of cover letters. It was a long day and I was happy to be able to go home and get some rest.

 

Bargain Shopping and cooking fish and whole- grain biscuits (independent living skills series lesson 9)

I was early for class; I was also eager to get my orientation and mobility lesson started. Come to find out, it was cancelled again. That made me feel disappointed because I really enjoy my lessons on travel.

On top of class being cancelled, many of my classmates were out for one reason or another. So, two of my classmates went to the technology lab for a lesson, and I went and had a one on one lesson with my cooking instructor.

For those of you who do not know I am on a special needs diet known as “The No White Food Diet.” This diet basically eliminates all white food such as sugar and flour. My instructor knows about my dietary needs and he looked up a whole-grain biscuit recipe. The recipe was simple and it used some of the same skills that I had learned from the previous lesson.

Our mission was simple, go to Ever’man Cooperative Grocery & Café and get the ingredients.

The shop was busy with people and I was fascinated by the variety of products they had. If it was not for the prices of some of the products, I would shop there regularly. It felt like they had everything I would want to eat on my special needs diet, however the prices were so high.

My instructor got a small bag of coffee, and we also got the flour that we needed for the biscuits. Before we left the store, we looked at the bread, meat, produce and the vitamins. We compared prices per pound for some of the items. My instructor pointed out that since this store was a specialty store it would carry some specific items, like the flour, I would want to buy for the price they had listed, however some items, like vegetables or meat I could shop elsewhere and save money.

Once we got the flour and coffee, we went to Bailey’s Produce & Nursery. We looked at all the fresh produce like peaches, plumbs, squash, and corn. We talked about certain recipes that I could cook and how buying from a store like this would be healthier and better for my wallet. While we were shopping, one thing kept coming back to me in my mind, “How does someone like me, who has limited public transportation go get groceries?” The answer was simple, buy what I can with Amazon and buy fresh fruit and vegetables when I go shopping. Living by a bus line or using Uber would be helpful.  Pushing my feelings aside, we stopped by a fast food hamburger joint to get me some lunch.

We had one more stop to make to a discount grocery store. While at the discount grocery store I got milk and baking soda. Before we left, we stopped by the meats and produce and compared prices from the notes that I took from the Everman’s. This discount store had a lot of items that were a lot cheaper.

Once we got back to the center, we put all my ingredients into one bag. I got a special treat, I got to watch my instructor cook a piece of fish, then he told me how to peel and dice an avocado. He also diced a tomato.

His lunch looked better than my hamburger and fries. It was a great day and I learned a lot about how to be a successful visually impaired person.

P.S. Once I got back home I went ahead and baked my biscuits. They came out great. 😊

 

Inspiring Visually Impaired Youth and Cooking Breakfast (independent living skills series 8)

“Hey Amanda, you want to join us outside?” my Orientation and Mobility teacher asked as she, another Orientation and Mobility teacher and a small group of visually impaired children waited by the door. “Sure, let me grab my cane.” I responded.

After grabbing my cane, we all headed outside to a nearby field. Seeing the children laugh, run and play made me feel good.

Everyone was fine until one student said he did not want to play with the ball because there were spikes on it.

My Orientation and Mobility teacher tried to reassure the child that he was not going to get hurt and that the ball was soft. He was still hesitant, so I stepped in. “You guys know that I have sick eyes too.” I said to the children. “Let us look at this ball. See the ball is soft.” The boy was still scared that he was going to get hurt. “I can touch it, and I am not getting hurt.” I said as I patted and touched the tactical ball.

At this point, my Orientation and Mobility teacher chimed in, “It is tactical so you can feel it.” The student was still nervous about getting hit in the face, so to combat that fear I had another student throw the ball. After I caught it and threw it back, the student’s fear was relieved and they started playing again. Joining the teachers again, we talked about the Children’s summer camp and about Jingle Ball. As we talked about these things and as I watched the children play it made me stop and reflect on my own childhood. Sadly, when I was growing up I was not involved in these kinds of programs. I wish that I was because I know that these programs help children build confidence and independence early.

Soon my cooking teacher and some of my classmates showed up. So, I went back into the student conference room. I hoped we would be baking a cake, like I requested, however instead we were going to cook a simple breakfast which included; biscuits, eggs, hash browns and sausage.

To start the cooking class off, another classmate and I peeled some potatoes. I had already previously used a peeler when I peeled some carrots, so I felt confident about this task.

After the potatoes were peeled, we had to cut and dice the potatoes. I had used a chef’s knife before, so I had some confidence already in my ability to complete this task. However, I went to fast, and I had to remind myself to slow down while I was dicing. While the potatoes were being prepared and put into a large bowl another student started making biscuits. I was curious about making biscuits because the last time I made biscuits they came out harder than rocks. I was hoping for a better outcome this time.  When it was my turn to make my batch, I was nervous and I felt unsure with my cooking abilities, and I lacked confidence which was heard in my voice as I talked to my teacher.  The dough felt sticky as I kneaded it. I did not like how the dough stuck to my hands; and I was glad when my biscuits were on the cookie sheet. Once that was done, I was relieved when I could wash my hands. I then had to face my fears and I had to place my cookie sheet into the hot oven. Before I did that, my teacher gave the whole class some tips.  I was able to put the cookie sheet in the hot oven without any problems. The battle was won. While my biscuits were in the oven I watched another student cook sausage. I was then instructed to crack and whip some eggs into a bowl. I had cracked eggs before and that was no problem. However, I had to be taught how to use a whisk. Because of my Cerebral Palsy I could not be as fancy as my teacher did it, however the way I beat the eggs got the job done.  While this was going on my teacher went from station to station checking on each student. Soon, the meat, the first batch of biscuits, and the potatoes were done. All that was left was my biscuits and the eggs. The timer beeped and that meant it was time to take the biscuits from the oven. I too had to take up this challenge and get over the fear of the heat. Before I took the biscuits out of the oven, my teacher gave us a lesson on how to safely remove the pan. He also allowed me to do a practice run of where I would put the pan before I actually took it out. I took the pan out with ease. My confidence rose. I still have a lot more pans to pull from a hot oven before I get my full confidence, however I will get there.

Once I was finished with this task, I transferred the finished eggs to a serving dish. I felt good about myself at that very moment.

It was time to eat, and the staff, and all the students enjoyed the meal.

I’m featured on my school’s website. 🙂 #School #Independent #Living #Skills

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Plans Change: Informal Pre-Employment Class (independent living skills series 7)

The van was late. I was anxious; and I was starting to snack on my favorite taco chips and Dr. Pepper. Because I was still upset I called an international friend in England. We chatted up a storm until the van came.

The ride to school was uneventful, and I was only 30 minutes late. When I got there, I put my lunch away and walked into the conference room. I was eager to get started with my Orientation and Mobility lesson. Come to find out, my teacher had to cancel my lesson.

Instead of going home, I asked the instructor if it was okay to stay for the pre-employment lesson. Today’s lesson was on resumes. The first type of resume we covered was functional and how we should use quantity and qualitative examples. We looked at a few examples and discussed why they were good examples.

Once that topic was discussed, we went on to a functional disability statement. I must admit I have a disability statement, however it never covered such topics such as: what my vision is like and what I can see, how I can complete tasks in my daily life such as getting around, cooking and using the computer, and allowing the employer to ask any other questions they may have by opening the conversation yourself.

By that time, I brought up the issue of employers not believing that my eye condition is not real or the fact that I am either drunk or on drugs.

My teacher is right when he says you must have thick skin, and sometimes people are just plain ignorant. He is right; when I get those kinds of interviews, just move on. It only takes one “Yes,” out of the hundreds of “No’s” I have received to achieve success.

Accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was our next topic. It is hard for me to believe that someone in human resources would have knowledge about the ADA.  That lead us onto the topic of being able to sell yourself with your assets such as keyboarding skills, how your personal technology works, ect.

The last thing we covered was the format of a chronological resume and some basic interview questions.

On the way home, beneath all the anger I felt about my job seeking journey, I thought about a story that my teacher told about a relative that had come to visit. This relative met one of my teacher’s friends who was blind and he got to learn the impact that my teacher had on this blind friend as a teacher. He gave the man the gift of independence by teaching him. I, myself, want to be as independent as possible. However, first I must figure out what that means to me.

Getting used to my new cane and tip (independent living skills series 6)

“Great, you brought your new cane; let me go get your pencil tip. I’ll be back in a minute,” my Orientation and Mobility instructor said, as I sat there eagerly waiting for my lesson to start.

Once she returned with the pencil tip, I decided against it. That was because I am a medium traveler and I need more tactile information. Because I did not like the marshmallow tip, and because Ambutech does not provide the type of tip I am currently using, my teacher introduced me to a tip called Ceramic. It’s small and has a rubber band around part of it. With this tip I get excellent audio and tactile information.

Because I needed to get used to my new cane and tip, another classmate and I went outside to walk in the grass. For me, I do not like to walk in the grass because sometimes my tip gets stuck. Once we were done with that, my teacher, classmate and I headed for the mall. The mall has laminate floors which made it hard to sweep my cane. My teacher noticed that my arch was to wide and had to correct me.

Another thing was I had to get used to my new cane. It’s like trying on a new pair of boots, you have to break them in. During my time at the mall, we came across some stairs. We worked on how to go up and down. I learned to descend; I can sweep my cane for feedback before going down. To ascend the stairs you are to bump your cane against the front of the step then step up.

After our lesson, we got a snack, and headed back to the center for lunch; It was nice to relax and to give my wrist a break.

Once lunch was over, my teacher, another classmate and I went back to the mall. This time the walk was smoother. I’m sure in a few weeks I will be adjusted to my new cane and tip. The only thing left is to name my cane; just for a joke…I shall call him Paddington Freedom.

Final Echo Dot Lesson (independent living skills series lesson 5)

This week was an exciting week for me. I am now a proud graduate of the first ever Echo Dot training class. For our final class, my teacher had me disable, and then re-enable his Echo Dot. This will help me once I get my own Echo Dot next week.

Setting it up was simple. I only had to follow the set-up menu via the app. During the set up process, I watched a short tutorial video which included information on the different skills and features (such as playing music via Bluetooth, using Google calendar, ect)

The last thing we did was allow me to explore the different skills. Some of the skills I chose for my Echo included: Weather, Flashlight, TED Talks, Sleep and Relaxation Sounds, CNN, and Meow meow.  What Skills do you use for the Echo Dot if you own one? Tell me in the comments below.

I’m eager to receive my device, customize it, and to start using it.