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Monday, January 11, 2010

Planning and Practice

A person who is blind who is an experienced traveler may be able
to get around on their own in new locations. It takes work and
practice. They need to learn orientation and mobility skills and
strategies for dealing with problems. They often rely strongly
on their hearing. And when all else fails, they can ask for
directions.

It's a goal I'd love to achieve but it's not so easy for me. Not
only am I blind, i'm also deaf and physically impaired. Walking
around in a new place is a major challenge. I'm not just
focusing on navigating with a white cane, I'm also working on
balance and stability. I have to fight for every step. I need a
wall or sidewalk crack or something to follow so I can stay
straight. Of course, I can't use my hearing and I can't
communicate with people to ask for directions. There are a lot
of problems I need to overcome.

This doesn't mean I give up. I'm determined to be independent.
I can do it but it takes some extra work. It involves planning
and practice Before going off on my own, I always need to learn
the location with help from a sighted person.

That is what I did today. I am getting ready to return to
classes. I needed to find my new classroom for ASL iv.

As "luck" would have it, my class is in the one wing of the
building that I am unfamiliar with. I put that in quotes
because it's both good and bad. Sure, if my class was in the
first part of the building, I wouldn't have needed to take a
trip on campus today. I likely would already know how to find
the room.

On the other hand, I have good reason to want to learn to
navigate this other wing. It's where the transportation service
sometimes takes me. They leave me at the wrong door and I've
been unable to find my way around. It should be easy. Just
follow the right side of the hall. But somehow it never worked
out and I would be lost. Why? I never could understand. And
that's the reason I need to learn more about this hallway.

My Deaf-blind Outreach trainer and I went to the Languages
building today to find my new classroom. Getting there was
pretty easy. I followed the wall all the way down the hall and
then turned the corner. I was in new territory but my trainer
had me ready. Feel the ground for rugs. The second rug is in
front of the water fountain. Count past three bulletin boards.
The next door is my classroom.

For some odd reason, there's a sign on that door in embossed
letters that says "lucky." I don't know what it means but it's
something I can feel and know I'm in the right place. Easy
enough.

Getting back was much harder. Something kept throwing me off.
There seemed to be a corner where there shouldn't be a corner.
That must be what messed me up in the past as I wandered down
that hall.

It's not enough for my teacher to just tell me what to do. She
said to just walk past the corner then turn at the second corner.
(That one shouldn't have been there, either.) I could follow her
instructions and find my way. but it wouldn't be true learning
if I didn't understand what I was doing.

That's very important to me. I must understand. I make a mental
map of the layout. The map has to make sense. If things don't
line up right, it won't work for me.

Corners are there for a reason. I am not satisfied until I
know what that reason is. In this case, it turns out there is a
corridor that extends off just the one side of the hallway.
That's what's creating the corners. Mystery solved.

So now my map of the building is complete. What is really good
is that I now know the general layout of the entire building.
There's no more unknown wings or areas where I could get lost. I
hope the transportation service takes me to the right door this
semester. But if any of the drivers do screw up, I'll be
ready. I'll be able to find my way.

Classes start next Tuesday. There's a part of me that doesn't
want to go back. ASL iv sounds so advanced and scary. I'll be
there, though. ASL iv.... here I come!

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