The Perfect Focus

Finding focus in a blurry world…

Archive for the ‘Orientation and Mobility’ Category

Orientation and Mobility: SEPTA Regional Rail – Part 1


Sorry for neglecting you guys again. Orientation and Mobility this past week was fun, and kind of scary. As you can tell from the title of this post, I “graduated” to SEPTA Rail travel.

10_SEPTA reg rail car_SeptaThis was my first EVER trip on a train or to a train station… EVER! Far be it from the little things that amuse folks like me that have never traveled before. I’d happily make a trip to just go sit on a blog friends couch to simply say I made the trip! – I’m a little crazy I know.

The trip started like all others I have been on for the past few weeks. Catch the SEPTA 93 bus here in town and ride it all the way to Noristown Transpertation Center (NTC). But Elaine was not meeting me at the bus this time; it was up to me to navigate across the NTC (not really a short walk and across traffic) to meet her at the SEPTA Train platform at NTC, to catch the 11:17AM R6 train to Market Street Station; one of the first main stops along the line.

Meeting Elaine at the station platform, she was happy and I was relieved to have arrived in one peace. She told me when the train was coming, and where I was to ask to get off. She gave me my SEPTA Training Pass (cool pass that allows O&M students like me to ride for free with an instructor). She told me to mind my first step up because this platform was not level with the train, and it’s kind of a big one. And like bus rides to let the conductor know to please announce my stop and to make sure this was actually the R6 train!

With a loud squeal and a hiss, the train pulls in. A rush of people flood to get on. Up the steps and make a right I went. The interior was very nice, with plush seats and well lit, a row of three seats on one side and two on the other. I went about half way down and plopped in. Elaine snuck off further away, but still in the same car to observe.

With a toot-toot and a hum, the train was off with in a minute. The conductor made his way down collecting tickets. I showed him my pass with little fuss (some times drivers fuss!) and ask him to announce Market Street Station… no problem sir.

The train ride was about 40-minutes to Market Street Station and I sat back to enjoy the view. The most notable landmark this line went past was Temple University; I could look out and see the football field as we passed. COOL!

We arrived at Market Street Station, and the conductor announced the stop, by then the train was full of people and students, and a flood of people and me, made the mass exit to the platform. I stepped off to the side and waited for Elaine so we could continue the lesson in and around the station.

To be continued…

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Orientation and Mobility: Anatomy of a Stoplight


I really did want to come up with a wittier name for this post, but it is what it is… And today’s lesson was all about intersections controlled with stoplights.

We where at the same area we use last time, and made our way to the intersection I had stopped at before. Elain explained to me that there are two different types of stoplights. One is called a Variable Timed, and the other Fixed Time. You can guess by their names, it’s really simple.

Traffic LightA variable timed intersection is controlled by a stoplight with an embedded pressure plate or wiring that a car rolls over to control the amount of time the light will stay green on the next cycle. – You can usually see the wires or plate in the roadway. A fixed time intersection has a set interval of red to green cycles that will not change… Simple.

Did you know most traffic lights and cross walk lights timing are based on the fact humans walk about 5-feet-per-second? The wider the street, technically the longer the light will stay green, or walk light will stay on. Did you know that on a variable timed intersection, most lights will add about 3-seconds to the light cycle for each car in the line, most times with a maximum up to three cars deep? (That’s about 9 or 10-seconds.)

Man, it turns out mobility instructors really know their stuff!

So any way… We approached and surveyed the intersection. We determined it was a variable timed intersection; the main street cycle was about 30-seconds, and the side street was about 15-seconds. We noted stoplight pedestrian buttons and we talked about there use. Remember to use them when cars are rolling, so they interrupt the cycle; but remember, some may not work, (in our case one was broken).

The button facing into you is used to control that light crossing the street that you are facing, the button should never be behind you, if so, it’s likely not for that street.

We hit the button, lined up, and waited for the light to change. Here it comes, lights green, check left, center, right, all clear, and go! Always noting the danger point and crossing traffic, many intersections, it’s the middle of the cross walk where you could have cars turn in front of you, particularly if a stopped car is to your left.

Not bad, we made it… and now… we do it again! We continued this way making circles around the intersection when it was the proper time to cross; it must have looked funny, because we looped the intersection clockwise about a half-dozen times.

We talked about the dangerous turn-on-red that so many drivers like to do, even though some (a lot) like to ignore the no-turn-on-red signs. She reminded me that pedestrians still have the right-of-way at crossings, and if a car is at a stop, it’s unlikely they will turn on you. – But I still take little comfort in that. This is part of the huge anxiety of street crossings that gets to me. But the only way to get over this fear is to do more street crossings.

So drivers, please put down your cell phone, stop putting on your makeup, don’t pass stopped cars and pay more attention at intersections. Pedestrians have the right-of-way at cross walks, and persons with a white cane or service dog have even more! If you’d just pay attention, the road would be much safer for all of us!

If you blow your horn at me, and flip me the finger… I’m likely to cane your car, you ungrateful 4-wheeled little bastard. – Road rage, blind man style! – I didn’t say that, I deny everything! I didn’t see your car, I swear!

Next week Elaine says we’re going to play in more traffic, and a little busier intersection. Oh the joy! In all I’d have to say I’m still a 3 out of 5 for busy intersections. But a strong 4 out of 5 for lesser intersections.

Lets see what next week brings!

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Orientation and Mobility: Stop, Listen, Look


Intersection SignIn this lesson, Elaine took me to an outer part of town, but it happened to be right near our local Middle School, so I did know the location…

The objective was simple, to walk up, down, and around the block, stopping for all open areas (that includes driveways); listening, for cars and the direction of traffic, as of yet still waiting for “All Quiet“; and finally look to make sure all is clear before you cross a driveway or street… and as always, using perfect cane technique.

I made my way to the first street, surveying the location, noting the street name, the flow of traffic, and how the intersection was controlled… listened for “All Quiet” and made my way across… It was mid day so traffic at that time was very light. We made our way down a few more blocks, doing crossings the same way, always stopping, listening for any sound, and then looking before crossing.

This lesson was uneventful, as it was more for Elaine to observe me, and how I approached the curb, and to make sure I listened, and looked before crossing. We made a few turns, and looped back around.

While doing so Elaine normally travels a good 20 to 30-feet behind me as to not disturb me, and so she can observe.

As I walked down the street some people where out and about. As I approached an alley way I stop, and listen, check the curb edge with my cane as I have been told to do. While resting a moment I hear from across the street a man say “It’s OK, your fine it’s clear…” as I did then step off and cross the alley, I then hear “Watch your step…” of course I did politely ignore him.

White Cane ManI made my way down the street, and I over hear him and a lady say “Leave the man alone, he knows what he’s doing“… and a fleeting comment of “Them blind people sure amaze me, I don’t know how they do it…” – Well I have to say at least some one noticed my white cane! In all my years, I have never had some one attempt to assist me in crossing a street. It was a little embarrassing, but made me feel good, some one attempted to help.

As a note to my fellow sighted reader, I would like to remind you that most blind or low vision people who travel need little help, and if we do, we will ask. We know what we’re doing that’s why we have people like Elaine to train us!

You should not shout or startle a blind or low vision person; chances are they are concentrating on the task at hand… You should not yell “It’s OK to cross“, I will cross when I am ready… If I am going to cross a street, chances are I am at the curb, with my cane in front of me, waiting to step off. If I am not going to cross, I will likely pull my cane tight to my body, and be back away from the curb. – Please do not be offended if I tell you I don’t need your help.

In the next lesson, Elaine says we’re going to start working on crossing streets where traffic is a little more heavy, and you can’t always wait for “All Quiet“…

As always, feel free to leave your comments!

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