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.

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.

Shopping and compass directions (independent living skills series 16)

The van was late, but I still made it on time. Once everyone was in the student lounge, our main teacher told us about a focus group meeting that was being held at the main office. I, along with two other students, were chosen to go to the meeting. That meant that my lesson was going to be cut short.

Once again, I was assigned Orientation and Mobility.  My teacher gave me a choice of what I wanted to work on. Because I feel like I was getting stressed with the street crossings I decided to work at the mall. The mall was not as busy as I expected it to be. As we looked around at what the stores had to offer my teacher asked me questions like, “What direction is the water?” The answer was simple; its in the South. Because I was looking for more shorts I had to ask someone for directions for that department. I followed the persons directions and as I was traveling my teacher asked me what direction I was going. Sometimes I would get the direction right and other times I would get it wrong. It is definitely something that I need to work on more. We found the shorts, but I could not find any style that I liked. I still made out pretty well. I got a pair of tan shorts, a pair of gray pants and a camo top. All for $20.00.

Once we were done with our lesson we made a quick stop through a drive through. I got a hamburger and a large coke for $4.00.

We then went to the meeting. I can not tell you what happened at the meeting because it is confidential, however I can tell you about what happened afterwards. I was supposed to close my case in September, however because I advocated for myself that I still was struggling with my travel and cooking skills my caseworker extended my Individual Employment Plan until next March. That is such a big relief off my shoulders.

I am not sure what lesson I will have next week, but I will keep building my confidence one lesson at a time.

 

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.

102 heat index (independent living skills series 14)

I was  an hour early for school. There was only one other student and a few teachers. I talked to my teachers about a few concerns I had. Once that was taken care of, I went back to the conference room. Soon my other classmates filed in and we got our assignments.

I, along with another classmate, were assigned Orientation and Mobility lesson. Since I am getting closer to my graduation date my teachers and I want to be sure I have the confidence to travel independently.

It took quite a long time to find a parking space, and sadly I was a bad journalist and did not get any footage of the downtown Pensacola area. However I did see some interesting sights. I saw a funeral home that looked like a Mexican restaurant, a woman wearing a stylish dress, and of course the Pier, with it’s water fountain.

Once we did found a parking space we headed off. Because I felt like there was not much room to work, I was not working my cane properly. My teacher saw this and she pointed out some more space. I began to work better after a further adjustment.

The first street crossing went great, however when I came to the next one I got nervous. It showed. My teacher had to provide feedback as to my crossing techniques. When were done with the lesson, my teacher, classmate and I went to go get something to drink. My teacher went to Starbucks, and my classmate and I went to get some sodas at a nearby sandwich joint. While we enjoyed the Air Conditioning and our drinks we talked about our eye conditions and how American Politics effects benefits for the disabled.

When we got back to the center we had lunch; and while we were eating, we had a class meeting. We decided to all pitch in and have a class pizza party in the near future. I am looking forward to it.

Once lunch was over, another student and I headed back out. This lesson was going to be much shorter than the first because the heat index was 102. Finding a parking space was quicker than in the morning. As we walked down the sidewalk I saw some interesting things. The tax collector’s building looked neat as it used to be a historic building. I saw a bright orange thing on the sidewalk. We were not sure if it was a large toy or a moving chair. All we knew was the color and that it was in front of a candy shop and that it moved. We continued to walk and cross the streets. I struggled at a four-way stop because I went with the flow of traffic, yet when I saw a car approach I froze. Even though there is a white cane law, I still have a fear of people not stopping. My teacher had to reinforce the white cane law to me. After that we headed back to the center. Just in the nick of time-a rainstorm hit! I can not wait for my next adventure and I am looking forward to graduation day.

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.

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What I did today. My classmate took this photo.

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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.