Redeeming my failure to ride escalators (independent living skills series 24)

I really wanted to go to class because I wanted to see my teacher before she left to go on vacation. I got to school before my other classmates. Before we got our assignments for the day we had a class meeting. The meeting was to remind us to take the bus to school whenever possible.

After the meeting, my teacher and I went to the mall. I quickly found my landmark and took off towards the escalator. Since going up is easier for me I was able to get on with ease. We stopped and looked at the new items of clothing that were on sale for Christmas. They sure had some cute things.

Then I had to face it! The down escalator. My teacher got behind me, and then said to me, the more you wait and psych yourself out the worse it will be; it is not that big of a deal. Just get on and ride. That’s exactly what I did.

I got on and got off with ease. Once that was done I had to navigate through the mall to get to the food court. When we got there, I looked at the many options for meals; I decided to have tacos.

I had three hard shell tacos with hamburger meat, rice, beans, cheese and avocado. For my drink I had a coke. My tacos were crunchy, and I loved the avocado.  My coke was refreshing.

After lunch, we went to Dillard’s. On the way back, I saw a candy stand. I got some lemon drops and some bubble gum. Yum!

While I was mind mapping to get back to my original landmark, we looked at more Christmas clothes. I bought a red, long-sleeved top that has a Boston Terrier on it. Below the dog it says Santa Paws.

Once I had made my purchase we left the mall and went to Target. All I got there was a candy bar. We then went and drove around looking at what beautiful Pensacola has to offer before returning to the center. It was a great day.  For the next two weeks I will be doing cooking lessons.

I would like to also address some questions on when I will be graduating from this program. I am set to graduate in March; however, I can request that I finish early. To do this, I must prove to my instructors and caseworker, that I have the confidence and that I have mastered the skills that are posted on my Individual Employment Plan.

Failing at my Escalator review (Independent living skills series 23)

I woke up feeling sick and nervous because I felt like I have a lot on my plate. I quickly got dressed and was ready to go. However, I had to wait for the van; and it felt like it was never going to show up, but it did.

The part-time Orientation and Mobility teacher was not there, so the plans were to wait on one more student who was going to be late, and then leave as a group. A few minutes later the part-time teacher showed up. Because Pensacola was offering a wet and windy day my teacher and another classmate and I went to the mall.

My classmate had only a few Orientation and Mobility lessons before, so my teacher taught her about the basics of landmarks and mind mapping. Once that was done, we headed to Dillard’s, so we could practice riding escalators. My teacher gave instructions to my classmate, and with a little coaching my classmate did great.

Then it was my turn. As you have read in my previous posts I was gaining confidence with this skill, therefore it should have been a piece of cake for me. When I got up to the lip fear took a hold of me. I kept feeling the cane tip move, since my teacher had me swap canes with my classmate for a bit.

My teacher had to give me a lot of coaching and encouragement. “Come on, you’ve done this before,” she said as I stood at the top of the stairs. I shook my head no and backed up again. “Come on, I’ll make a video for your blog,” She said. Nothing she said seemed to help. A few members of the public came up to ask if I needed help. Of course, I just explained I was in a lesson. After a few more tries I finally did it.

We then walked around the men’s department and went back up the escalator. For me going up is easier than going down. This time my teacher had me swap our canes back to its proper owner. It felt good to get my cane back.

Since we were back at the top my teacher had me go first. Still I struggled. Oh, well at least I did do it eventually.

Then we went to do an elevator lesson. It was good to hear the lesson again as it helps reinforce what I had learned. The elevator lesson was quick and simple.

Once that was over we went to Newk’s. I had the half and half meal. I had my usual chicken salad sandwich, and for my side I had half a bowl of macaroni and cheese, and a pink lemonade to drink. I enjoyed my meal.

After lunch, we went back to the mall and did a drop off practice. While walking to our meeting place I stopped by HallMark so I could get a Christmas gift for a friend.

When I reached our meeting place my classmate and I chatted up a storm while we waited for our teacher.  When we were leaving, a member of the public saw us walking and started yelling, “I’m so sorry for you; God bless you.” Even though sometimes we educate the public on blindness and the fact that blindness does not ruin your life. I chose to ignore his comments.

Then we went outside and worked on sidewalk travel, two-point touch, and basic street crossing.

Even though I felt sad about not doing good with my review, I say I’ll conquer the escalators next time.



Heavy Traffic, Elevators and a Target Run (independent living skills series 22)

I woke up feeling sick, and it took a lot of effort to get going. Thank goodness for Cheerios and coffee. I got to school early; and the taxi ride was uneventful. During class announcements, I found out that we would be getting a new teacher for our daily living skills classes. i.e. cooking, managing a home, etc. I can not wait to get back into the kitchen. I had Orientation and Mobility again. Things are getting harder, as my teacher is upping the traffic flow and making my routes more difficult.

We started off at an area close to the center. Because I had not been at this intersection before I listened to the flow of traffic. I heard the cars go left, straight, stop, left again, and then straight again. I felt unsure of myself, so I listened to the flow of traffic once more. The third time the traffic started its pattern I was ready to cross; however, I missed my opportunity. I was clearly not on the top of my game. I had to wait again, and I had to wait a long time. I finally made it to the second crossing.

During the second crossing, I learned not to trust the crossing light because it was broken. I truly had to rely on my traffic signal to know when to cross. By the third crossing, I was feeling a little better and was able to cross with confidence.

When we got back into the car it was 11 O’clock. I was hungry! I was hoping some protein would help me perk back up. I really wanted a hamburger, and at first, we were planning on going to McDonald’s, but we changed our minds and we went to Tops. I ordered a cheeseburger, tater tots, and a coke.

The cheeseburger was twice the size of the one I would have gotten at McDonald’s. The extra lettuce, onions and tomatoes made it feel much healthier. The tater tots were so hot they burned my fingers; and they were also greasy.   My coke was smooth and tasty as it filled my mouth and slid down my throat. I was so thirsty that I couldn’t drink it fast enough. My lunch as a whole was only $6.00, and my meal gave me the energy I needed to finish my lesson in stride.

Once we finished our lunch we went to a bank. The lobby was filled with people as I navigated to find the elevator. I had to pay attention to the doors as it is normal for it to open to the side of the operating box. I did not like the feeling my stomach got when the elevator went up. I went up to the fourth floor, and then we went back down again. This time the elevator talked and announced each floor. This made it much easier to know what floor I was on. I was a star coming out of the elevator impressing my teacher and many onlookers. When I was leaving the building, I saw a lab puppy. Its fur was light in color and it was laying quietly by it’s raiser while we walked by. It was cute!

The last part of our lesson was going to Historic Downtown Pensacola. There was so much to see as I walked down the streets. There was an archaeological dig going on. Across the street was a school going on a tour about the slave house. I even saw a train. While I was crossing one road my teacher took a video of me crossing.

I even got to go to a gazebo where I practiced my ascending and descending technique for stairs.

On my way back to the car, I practiced compass directions. Believe me I still need help with this.

I learned how to assess my environment because there were so many cars parked along the road.  I felt so confident at the end of the lesson; and I really enjoyed seeing downtown.

Our last stop was Target. I got some shampoo, body wash, and another coke. I was so thirsty. We then went back to the school and we had an oral review, and I learned how to transfer while doing sighted guide.  It was a great day 😊

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.