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.

View this post on Instagram

What I did today. My classmate took this photo.

A post shared by Amanda Gene (@amandagenen) on

 

 

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.

 

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.