Today, after work, my family had a Mobility Training session with Kasey. Sam came in by bus after his classes, John picked Ben up at home and we all met Kasey in the lobby of ABVI-Goodwill. Kasey took us to his office and we chatted for a bit about blindness and safety and mobility. Kasey explained that, even though a very small percentage of people who are blind have NO light perception, he wanted my family to experience this extreme lack of vision for the purposes of training. Then, one by one, Kasey had them put on “blind glasses” (which block out all light) and try some mobility training.
Sam went first. Kasey took him into the hall and asked him to put on the glasses. Then, Kasey had him stand alone in the middle of the hallway to experience being “lost in space.” Kasey explained the etiquette of never leaving a person who is blind “lost” like that, but to anchor that person in some way and help him understand his environment. Next, Kasey showed Sam the technique of “sighted guide,” explaining that Sam was in control and should let Kasey know if he wanted to go faster or slower. The hallway near Kasey’s office makes a big square and he led Sam around this square. John, Ben and I followed along. When we made our way back to Kasey’s office, he stopped and asked Sam if he thought they could be back at his office. Sam said no, he didn’t think we had walked far enough.
Next, Kasey gave Sam a cane and explained how to use it. He told us that the back and forth “tap, tap” that you see in the movies is not the preferred method of teaching people how to use a cane. Instead, he advised Sam to hold the cane at an angle in front of him and use a back and forth sweeping motion to identify obstacles. He positioned Sam’s body so that Sam was heading straight down the center of the hallway and then asked Sam to follow his voice. Kasey walked backward in front of Sam as Sam navigated the hallway. Watching the way that Sam walked with that cane gave me a very strange feeling. Kasey pointed out that Sam’s gait was much different than usual. His stride was very short and he walked with great hesitation. As an observer, I felt sad to see a person I love walk with such a lack of confidence.
It was Ben’s turn to try next. He followed the same pattern: put on the glasses, get used to being “lost” in space, sighted guide training, cane training. As Ben walked with the cane, he angled back and forth, touching the wall on his left and then overcorrecting and touching the wall on his right. Kasey said that this “ping pong” type of walking is fairly common when people begin to use a cane.
When it was John’s turn, Kasey took him on a much longer walk. ABVI-Goodwill is housed in a huge old building that has a newer addition. With John, we went out of the Vision Rehab Center, where Kasey’s office is, up a ramp, and down a long, long hallway into the Administrative office area, where my office is. Once we arrived at my office, Kasey had John take the glasses off so that he could see where I work. Then, he had John put the glasses back on and I acted as John’s sighted guide to get back to Kasey’s office. John told me later that he was a little disappointed, because he still has no idea how to get to my office. For him, now, my office is kind of floating in an unknown space.
As soon as we returned to Kasey’s office, Emily texted that she was on her way. When she arrived, Kasey led her through the same training he had given Ben and Sam. Emily walked rather quickly around the “square” when she had Kasey as her sighted guide. As I had noticed with Sam, Emily seemed to take on a strange, unfamiliar gait when she walked with the cane.
After Emily took her turn, we sat in Kasey’s office for a minute to talk about the experience. Everyone agreed that it had been worthwhile. Kasey really affirmed our family and told us how wonderful it is that everyone made it to the meeting. I agree with him. I feel very blessed that my family is so incredibly supportive.