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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sensory Appreciation

Being deaf-blind and physically impaired, there's so much I can't
do. I'm totally blind. I can't see anything at all. I'm mostly
deaf. I only hear environmental sounds with my old cochlear
implant. I can't understand speech. I have no feeling in my
feet. My balance and gait are very poor. I wear leg braces and
walk with a fore-arm crutch.

Together, these disabilities severely limit me. The emphasis
always seems to be on what I am unable to do and what
challenges I face in everyday life. The focus words are: can't,
unable, limit, challenge, hard....

I need to concentrate on what I CAN do and what I DO have. A
recent situation help me discover that I do have important
sensory abilities that help me know what is going on in the world
around me.

Yesterday, I had a meeting at Students Accessibility Services on
campus. They are located in the Health Center building. This
was my first time going to that building on my own. I had
trouble with the bus service, but that's a different story
altogether.

It was a warm Spring day. The sun was out and the hot rays felt
so good on my skin. There is a bench outside the Health Center.
I decided to sit outside while waiting for the bus to take me
home.

It was also a very windy day. At first, I didn't mind the wind.
It felt nice, too. But after a few minutes, I began to feel
uncomfortable. Something was not right. I felt so trapped and
limit in my own body.

I realized it was because of the wind. The wind was blowing
against my CI microphone, creating a howl of awful noise. I
could no longer hear any real sounds. I couldn't hear people as
they moved around me or the sound of traffic nearby.

But the wind was also interfering with my ability to use scent
and touch. I could smell perfume and exhaust from cars.
These scents seemed to be coming from every where and no where.
They traveled on the wind and exploded around me. Yet, I could
not trace them to any source. I didn't know if a woman was
standing right beside me or if she was several feet away. I
didn't know if the bus was there in front of me or if I was
smelling cars from the distant road.

Because of the constant wind against my skin, I couldn't feel the
displacement of air as people moved past me. I didn't know if a
person passed by close. I had no idea if anyone was near me at
all. It was a very disorienting feeling.

So now I realize, I do have some sensory abilities. When I'm
sitting in the Languages building, they help me pick up
information about the environment. I can hear the chatter of
people, the rustling of papers and the sound of doors being
slammed shut. Or I can hear the silence that means I'm alone in
an area.

I can smell the scent of people who are around me. I know
someone is close when I smell perfume, cologne or even soap.
Sometimes I smell food, as someone eats a snack near me. I can
often determine my location by scent, as well. Hallways smell
bland and stale. I can smell coffee near the snack room. Then
there's that not-so-pleasant smell of a public bathroom that
needs to be clean.

Touch and the displacement of air gives me more useful clues.
There is a slight movement in the air when people walk past. The
closer they are, the better I can feel it. Or I can feel a
"whoosh" of cold or fresh air when someone opens the building
doors. All of this tells me that people are around.

I can't see or hear, but there are others ways for me to know
what is happening around me. I am not so helpless, after all.
There are things that I can detect, although I may not "see" them
in the usual manner. I need to focus on what I can do and learn
to appreciate and use the senses I do have. As bad as it may
sometimes seem, it could be worse.

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