Heavy Traffic, Escalators, Elevators and a blindfold walk (independent living skills series 20)

I woke up feeling anxious not because of the van or because of my lesson, but because a friend of mine was having a medical procedure. I quickly got dressed and had breakfast. I was picked up on time and was early for class. I was able to talk to one of the staff members and my classmates. Soon our student conference room was packed with students and staff members alike. Because we had new students joining our class, we had a quick introduction.
I had Orientation and Mobility with the part-time teacher. When we got into the van, and the key would not fit into ignition. Come to find out we were in the wrong van. Once we were in the correct van we made our plans for the day and took off. The first heavy traffic crossing was scary. I learned about the traffic light to cross. For my audience who live abroad, there are buttons for people to push before they cross the road. There is either a red hand, which means not to cross or a white person, which means it’s safe to cross. Also, there is a count-down timer that will tell the pedestrian to hurry up before the cars go again.
At the next intersection, my teacher pointed out that there were two buttons to cross the road and they had different tactile features, and each button faced the street I wanted to cross. This helped me a lot. I aligned my body ready to take off, but I missed my traffic surge to go. I had to push the button and wait again. I saw the light change from red to white and heard my traffic signal and took off. I crossed with success. I crossed two more times, each time gaining more confidence. Once I reached my starting point, my teacher asked me if I felt comfortable with crossing. I was feeling confident, and on top of that I was a little sweaty from the rising heat from the Florida’s sun. We decided to move to the mall and we would practice more heavy traffic during my next lesson.
At the mall, I had to find a landmark before I could start mind mapping to find the escalators. For my landmark, to help me find the store’s entrance, I chose the watches and purses. I started mind mapping and found more purses that was by the down escalators. Once again, I hesitated before getting on. I had my cane to far out in front of me. Once I corrected myself and got some encouragement from a store employee. I got on with no problem. I went around and came back up. By the time I did it a second time I had my confidence back. My teacher and I then went and moved onto the elevators. While we were walking to the elevators my teacher told me the employee was proud that I got passed my fear and was able to ride the escalator with confidence.
When we got to the elevators we first went over the buttons on the panels and the types of doors elevators have. We went on and went down. She showed me how to check the panel to see if I am on the right floor. To do this you hold your cane in one hand and hold the door with your arm, and then use your free hand to check the panel. After this lesson we left the mall, and went to a McDonald’s drive-through. I got a cheeseburger, fries, and a French vanilla ice coffee. Everything hit the spot.
We then went back to the center for our final lesson of the day. A blindfold walk. My teacher had me do some shore lining or two-point touch to find and follow the grass outside. The first time I did it I was scared. My teacher had to prompt me to walk faster and give me reassurance that I would not get hurt. I had to trust her and my cane. I was slow, but I did it. She had me do it a few more times and each time I gained more confidence.
We went on to review sighted guide. Which I got wrong the first time, however after correction I got it right.
She showed me how to find a seat and sit down. We then went and worked inside the school.
It was a long and rewarding day.

Learning about Non-24 and Getting Some Stress Relief (independent living skills series 19)

It’s Tuesday, which means another lesson. It took all my strength to get out of bed and to get going. I felt so tired from my medicine from the dentist too.  I had my normal wait time and got to class way before our official start time. Instructors and classmates a like were late due to the pouring rain. Today’s class was going to be a little different because a guest speaker was going to be presenting information about a condition called non-24. I had heard of it from commercials on TV, and from YouTuber Joy Ross. I learned that non-24 is a medical condition that affects people who are either blind or legally blind who have little to no light perception. Because people who have this condition have little to no light perception their body clocks are off which affects their wake sleep cycle.

The way the nurse explained the condition and its symptoms helped me understand the condition as a whole. I was able to ask to get more information about it via phone and in the mail.

The students and staff were treated to Subway, tea and cookies for lunch.

Once lunch was over I had another Orientation and Mobility lesson. For me these lessons are beginning to feel like an old hat. I was still hungry; so, my teacher and I went through the drive through at McDonald’s, and I got fries and a Coke. It really hit the spot.  We then went to Target. While I shopped I saw the cutest dress, however I have a few dresses in my closet I have yet to wear. I am personally trying to work on mindfulness and thankfulness. I then went to the cosmetics and found a sample of lavender bath bombs. I wanted to give them a try, as I have heard, a few fellow YouTubers and bloggers do reviews of similar products. It was a great day.

I can not wait to graduate from the program and I feel ready to tackle my last objective: The Bus.

 

A toothache, Orientation and Mobility lesson, and pizza (independent living skills series 18)

I woke up an hour after missing a call from a friend from overseas, and I was tired. The past weekend I had a toothache. I was ready for school even though I really did not want to go. When I got to school, I talked with my classmates and I helped clean up the student meeting room. Soon we all had our assignments for the day. I had another Orientation and Mobility lesson. I forgot my sunglasses at home. Because of that fact, and because I wanted to work on working in a crowded area, my teacher and I went to the mall.

First, I had to find a landmark and I had to use a map to find the first store I wanted to go to, Ross. I started off heading in that direction, mind mapping along the way. The store was easy to find. I had a fun time looking at all the clothes. I even thought about buying some thin ankle socks, but in the end I decided not to buy anything.  I backtracked my route to find Old Navy. I enjoyed seeing what that store had to offer and I even found some clothes I could wear for a job interview.

From there my teacher had me go to the food court. I had to look up and follow the signs. I used my environmental clues. Just had to follow my nose 😊

Then we went to Belk. While I was mind mapping to find a variety of departments my teacher told me how to find percentages off for when something is on sale. Believe me, the store had a lot of items on sale that day. Soon I felt comfortable doing the math and learning how much I would save on any of the great sales that were going on.

Our last stop was Dillard’s. We went around the store, having me learn the routes and how to mind map along the way. I have to admit I was getting tired because of the soreness I had in my mouth. We went up and down the escalators a few times. On my first attempt I was fearful; after a few rounds I felt confident. My teacher challenged me to go up and down two times on my own. I felt so confident when I did it on my own. I feel like I am no longer afraid. By now my tooth was really hurting and I was tired and hungry.

We went back to the center. When I got there, I was able to join in a daily living activity of making pizza. My teacher, one of our assistant daily living skills teachers, and I made the last pizza. My pizza had sauce, cheese and pepperoni on it. We cooked it for a while and when the cheese wasn’t melted my teacher broiled it for a few minutes. I had never cut a pizza with a chef knife before so I was taught to cut it by pressing hard and rocking my knife back and forth, then moving my pizza to the next section. I did not feel that comfortable doing it the first couple of times, so our main cooking teacher had to step in to help me. I love learning new things. 😊 While we were cooking our pizzas the director of Division of Blind Services stopped by. I was able to tell her about how things were going and what I felt like I needed. I felt listened too.

Soon our pizzas were done and everyone who had a piece enjoyed it. There was some left over so I grabbed one to take home to my grandpa.

After our lesson my classmates and I cleaned up the kitchen and the student lounge.

Since I was still hurting I called my grandpa. When I got home I went to the dentist. I am okay, and I have some medicine to help me feel better.

Even though I had a toothache and an added dentist visit I still had a good day.

 

 

 

Drop off practice (independent living skills series 17)

I was late getting up and I had to quickly get ready for school including packing my lunch. Despite rushing around I still had time to enjoy a cup of coffee. Soon my cab came, and I was still early for class. I was able to have a chat with some of the staff members. Soon we had our class assignments. Since my Orientation and Mobility teacher was not available I had to go to the computer lab; while I was in the lab a classmate and I looked at classes at The University of West Florida. We could not find what we wanted, so we looked at Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We both found a class about self-employment that we both are interested in taking.

Thankfully, my Orientation and Mobility teacher showed up. We were off! Ready for our next adventure. I wanted to work on my drop-off skills; this will help me when I take a cab of another service like, Urber. My teacher dropped me off and I had to meet her two blocks down. I felt confident once I picked my landmark and I took off. As I walked I started building a mind map by using my environmental clues and landmarks. I listened carefully for the sound of the parallel traffic. The first crossing went well. As I continued to walk I continued to mind map. My second crossing went amazingly smooth.

I heard someone calling my name; it was my teacher. She was driving beside me, and she sped up the street so she could meet me at our meeting location. I continued down the smooth sidewalk. I saw the sign for the post office and I heard the environmental clue of the water flowing from the fountain. I continue to mind map and I quicken my pace as I came to the court-house and the cannons. I was happy I found my main landmarks, however I started to panic as I looked around for the car. I quickly found it, however I had to cross the street one more time. By now, the nervousness of crossing busy streets do not phase me. I was even more happy that I was now out of the heat and in the car with the Air Condition running.

Once I was cooled off I had time for one more drop off. My teacher quickly found another location. We had to walk another block. But then my heart just started to melt when I saw a cute brown dog. The owner was interested in the training I was getting. So we stopped and chatted with him for a while. My teacher did great answering his questions about blindness and Orientation and Mobility.

While they were chatting away my teacher had me walk around the nearby park. I used a landmark of a blue sign as my starting point and took off. As I walked I thought about all I saw. I saw another fountain, some fall leaves that were gold in color, and the stones of the pavement were rough as I walked. Soon I was back at our meeting place. Once again, I got to show off my skills to the man when my teacher had me cross all four lanes of traffic. I did fine except for the last crossing. I had my cane to far out in front of me. Next time I need to relax my arm; this is so I can have better take off time and a safer angle. If my cane is too far out in front of me my cane could get crushed by a car. Then I’m in deep trouble. The man was impressed with my skills.

After we thanked the man for his interest we headed off for lunch at Newk’s. I had my usual loaded potato soup and half of a chicken sandwich with a cherry Pepsi. I enjoyed my lunch. We then went to a hair salon to pick something up then we went to Marshalls; they really had some cute clothes that I loved. I really enjoyed my day.

Crossing the streets blindfolded (independent living skills series 11)

I was early for class, and I was glad I was because my classmates and I were able to connect on levels of being visually impaired, and the impact of having a disability. Soon we headed inside and we started class on time. We all had our assigned lessons and we went our separate ways. I had Orientation and Mobility. The lesson we had was reviewing how to cross streets, however to help us focus on our skills we were going to do it blindfolded.

Now before anyone freaks out, our teacher does this one student at a time and stays within our space and she will grab us if we make a wrong move. This will keep us from getting hurt.

I was going with another student who was nervous about our lesson, however I had confidence. Because of this fact I volunteered to go first. Once we got downtown, before I put my blindfold on, we chose our landmark. I put my blindfold on and my confidence left. I walked slowly because I was scared. My teacher told me I needed to walk with confidence, and to focus on what my cane felt. Soon I came to my first street crossing; I knew I had to use the sound of the traffic on my right side as a guide.

I heard the sound of the traffic and I took off, but then I hesitated. My teacher helped me get back onto the sidewalk and she said I had to walk with confidence. Once again, I used the traffic noise as a guide and I took off at the right time. I was panicked as I crossed the street, so much so that I missed feeling my cane hitting a curb. If it was not for my teacher being there I would have landed on my face. Because my crossing was so bad, she led me back across the street for a second time. This time I was calmer and I felt my cane hit the curb. Success.

We continued on our journey, and I learned how to move around objects. I also learned how to use the traffic as a guide to keep me moving in the right direction.

Soon I was able to take my blindfold off, and I was grateful.

It was my classmates turn, she did fine with her travel. One thing we talked about was being as independent as possible if we were to lose our site completely.

By this time, it was time for lunch. We went to a local hamburger joint. I volunteered to walk up to the restaurant blindfolded, and I had to re-learn how to open a door. I took my blindfold off during lunch. I had a milkshake, a basic burger and fries. Which is one of my favorite meals. 😊

After lunch, we went and dropped off my classmates at school, and my teacher and I went to the mall. I was still nervous about learning how to step on and off the escalators. However, I found out I had my cane too far out in front of me. Once I had it in the right position, I was able to get on and off with ease.

My confidence was so high that I called a friend, via video chat, and I had my teacher follow me with the phone. It was great to show off my new skill and confidence.

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.

 

Basic Bus Skills (independent living skills series lesson 4)

Today, because of the threat of a tropical depression, my Orientation and Mobility teacher and I decided to do a short lesson on basic bus skills.

Before we even started the lesson, outside of the bus station was a beautiful flower on a bush; It was really pretty, and it had a nice smell. Once that was over, we walked into the bus terminal. My teacher gave me information on the prices of tickets, passes (which I have), and how to purchase them.  Then she gave me a brief orientation to the terminal itself.

We went outside and that’s when the hard work began. We watched as all the buses lined up for the next departure. My teacher explained that even though the columns were labeled, I should always check with the driver to make sure I was getting on the correct bus.

The sidewalk was noisy because of the buses and the crowd of people who gathered around waiting for their rides. It was a little disorienting at first, but I soon got use to the noise.

Once the buses left, my teacher and I walked the sidewalk to see how long it was. All that was left was getting a rider’s guide. We reviewed the guide over brunch.

I’m excited to actually take the bus next time. I am really gaining skills and feeling more confident.