Well hello readers… First, let me apologize… Though my mobility lessons are on Wednesdays, it seems impossible for me to find the time to sit down and write a post about them in the middle of the week. – Sorry.

On we go…

The anatomy of an intersection is something most sighted people give little thought about. But for a person who cannot see well there are many things that need to be taken into consideration.

Intersection SignIs the street one-way or two, what type of intersection is ahead, what shape is it, how is it controlled, stop sign or stoplight, does traffic even stop at all? Not to mention, what street am I on… Man, that’s a lot of things to remember!

Elaine and I set off in a quiet part of town to work on crossing skills. At the curb, we survey the anatomy of the intersection… It was a 4-way stop, near a school. We know this because I could identify stop signs on all four corners. And, besides, the stop sign on the corner we where standing on was marked “4-Way Stop“.

We identified the street name from the sign… Not as easy as it sounds, because I must be almost directly under the sign to read it; and if there is no sign on the corner I am on, I can’t read others around me with out first crossing to go look.

We noted landmarks around us, and the direction of the street from the position of the sun in the sky. (I knew watching Bear Grylls would come in handy some day!). But really I knew this from my grandmother as a child. The sun rises in the East, and sets in the West… If it’s after noon, and the sun is at your back, you’re facing East. – It should be noted, I am not a directional traveler, I prefer landmarks, I’m also really bad with names! (Quite the pickle isn’t it?)

We walked around the block, identifying the streets and their intersections, and how they where controlled, and listened to the different flow of traffic on the different streets, some where busier then others.

We did another round, around the block this time with them fabulous blinder glasses on so I could not see any thing. I’m starting to get use to this now, so it was not so bad, or so I thought. As I made my way around the block totally blind with my cane, I identified open areas and driveways by feel of the cane, and sound, (open areas just sound different, try it some time). I identified each curb until…

Warning StripThe dread of any blind person… Elaine swiftly saying STOP! – I froze… What did I do, I was still on the sidewalk, I had felt no curb… WRONG, I was two steps in the street! The curb at one of the corners was very flat and blended into the street; I felt no bump… If you’ve ever wondered why new curbs have them bumpy Lego looking things, that’s why… So blind people can tell there is a ramp for wheelchairs, and they are about to step into the street. This is exactly how many blind people are hurt or killed… We finished the rest of our walk with out trouble. My heart beating slightly faster then normal!

We then moved to crossing the street… With cane in hand, we locate the edge of the curb and hold the cane across the body to make it more visible to drivers. We LISTEN to the traffic, did they stop? Is there no sound at all? In this part of my training as Elaine has instructed me, we wait for “ALL QUIET“… meaning we hear absolutely NO traffic in any direction. We step off (as always in step with the cane) and cross the street… We find the far curb, and step up.

We reviewed the 5-point look… (Mom always says to look both ways, Elaine says look 5, I trust the mobility lady!) Where as you look left, forward, right, behind, and then left again, before you step off… And the points of danger as we cross, for most crossings this is the middle or second lain of traffic; as it is the most likely place to get hit from cars coming from any of three directions, cross traffic, and turning traffic.

For a sighed person it’s as simple as seeing traffic, and the stop sign, or the polite driver that waves you on to cross. But I can’t see those things. I can’t see drivers in their cars, I can’t tell if they will wait for me, or run me down. I can’t always see cars turn signals; I have particular trouble with people who like to turn on red.

In all, this lesson was basic, and I did remember most of this from the orientation and mobility training I received in school. I do need to pay more attention to street names and my direction. Despite the fact it was only around the block, I managed to forget the name of my starting street, but recognized the landmarks we picked.

Till next time! Please as always feel free to leave your comments!