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Friday, February 27, 2009

More Mobility

Over the past couple of days, I received several responses
to my last blog. This was the one about the trouble I had
when a bus driver took me to the wrong door of the building.
People seem to be amazed that I was able to keep calm and
solve the problem. The positive feed back has given me a
lot to think about.
If you are deaf-blind and you want to be an independent
traveler, you MUST be able to handle difficult situations.
You have to keep calm and think about the situation so you
can solve the problem. If you lose your head and panic, you
will never make it out in the real world. Problems will
always happen. It's not a matter of "if," but "when." How
you react under pressure will effect your ability to
I had another issue today. This one had nothing to do with
bus drivers. It was my own fault. It shows how the
simplest error can turn a familiar environment into an alien
This happened at our local hospital. I attend Physical
Therapy there twice a week. Actually, it was my Physical
Therapists who got me started with mobility training. They
didn't know what they we doing. We just kind of figured it
out as we went along. With their help, I've become quite
good walking on my own using a forearm crutch and guide
cane. It wasn't easy and it wasn't something I picked up
quickly. I've been in Physical Therapy for the past 14
I started with two Physical Therapists but right now I'm
working with just one. Her name is Andrea. We went to
high school together but didn't hang out in the same crowds.
Now we are pretty good friends. She knows fingerspelling
and has been learning ASL. It's great to be able to attend
PT without needing an interpreter. We even go to Deaf
socials together. We both want to practice our ASL skills
and we have tons of fun.
Andrea recently helped me "map out" the hospital entrance so
I can get in and out on my own. The plan is to have the
transporation service take me to PT like they do with class.
But I'm not ready to add more rides until I feel I can
better trust the bus drivers. My mom still takes me to
PT. Now she drops me off at the car port and I walk in by
It was the automatic doors that messed me up today. I do
not like automatic doors! Things that move on their own
take away my control. I need my cane to make contact with
the door so I know where I am
I knew I was not on target this morning as I walked into
the hospital. I never felt the first set of doors. I was
far to the left when I hit the second set. I had to move
over to the right to get them to open. I didn't know for
sure if I had cleared both sets of doors. That confused me.
I continued to walk forward. I should have hit a wall.
Then I would shoreline around the wall until I came to a
desk. But I never found the wall. There was just a lot of
open space. I knew something was wrong. I was close to my
destination. I had to be because I hadn't gone far. But I
didn't know where I messed up or which way I should
explore to get back on track.
At this point, someone touched my shoulder. The great
thing about traveling in a hospital is that the people are
really nice. There are volunteers around who are always
willing to help. It was one of the volunteers who
approached me. I didn't know who she was or what she was
saying. Yet, I got the impression she was asking me if I
needed assistance.
I told her that I was looking for the desk, which should be
close by. This volunteer had often seen me walk in and out
of the hospital. She knew my route. But she didn't lead me
a few steps to the desk. She kept on walking. Just like
with the bus driver on Wednesday, I knew it wasn't right. I
was being led too far.
I felt that I was being led through a door. Then the woman
let go of me. How was I supposed to know where I was. I
figured there was a good chance she had taken me to the
Rehab Center where I have PT. It felt about right, although
I had no proof. I planned to walk straight ahead. If I was
in Rehab, I'd run into the sign-in desk. If that didn't
happen, I'd have to use my voice and ask for more help.
Before I could do anything, Andrea arrived. We were,
indeed, in Rehab. Andrea explained to me that the hospital
had just been painted and the walls were still wet. The
volunteer brought me directly to Rehab so I wouldn't touch
wet paint. Well, that was definitely nice. It also turned
out, according to the volunteer, who had watched me come in,
that I had gone too far to the left. That's why I missed
the wall.
It's actually a good thing I made that simple little error.
If everything had gone right, I would have walked into wet
paint. That's an experience I can do without.
Andrea and I talked about what had happened. It's good to
know what I did wrong. Next time I will be more alert as I
go through the doors. I need to make sure I am in the right
position so I don't miss the wall again. But if I do miss
it, I'll have a better idea of what I did wrong and how to
correct myself.
Andrea asked me, "Do you feel okay?" I think she was
worried that I was upset. I was fine and told her so.
"Then it's time for 10 minutes on the exercise bike."
I quickly changed my tune. I said, "Oh, now! I'm very
upset. It was such a scary experience."
Andrea didn't buy it for a second. "Too late," she said.
And so, I did my biking.
The point of this story is that the littlest thing can cause
a problem for someone who is deaf-blind. If the person
panics, they won't be able to solve the problem. I was calm
and cool throughout it all. I knew that only a clear head
would allow me to get through this situation.
You have to be ready for anything. You never know what can
happen. One false step can spell disaster... but only if
you let it.
So how does a person who is deaf-blind deal with wet paint?
Remember my first blog -- you got to have a sense of humor!

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