The Perfect Focus

Finding focus in a blurry world…

Archive for the ‘Orientation and Mobility’ Category

Well it was raining and cold outside so today’s lesson was again at the local mall. So that is where Elaine and I headed today, a bit puzzled as to what she possibly may have me do.

Mobility instructors like to play pretend to educate and prepare there students for the next step, and it is kind of fun. So today Elaine played the role of a bus or Paratransit, which ever you would prefer.

With instructions and a task for me to do. The task was to be dropped off ALONE at the main entrance to the mall (an area where a bus would normally stop), enter, and make my way to Borders Books… ask the clerk for a book price, and if it was in, (sorry I forget the name of the book.)… Navigate out, and threw the mall, and meet Elaine at Friendly’s and the entrance to Boscov’s…

So off I set on my mall adventure. Not hard you think, but you must remember, I’m not use to being alone in such a large place, I’m always with friends, family, or mom. This time it was up to me, to navigate myself it’s a bit nerve-racking .


I navigated myself threw Dick’s Sporting Goods, (the main entrance), then into the mall… located Borders Books (only a short walk from Dick’s.) and I entered the book store. A nice clerk asked me right away if I needed help finding something, so I asked about the book and got the information Elaine asked for.

The first task complete, I exited and set off for Friendly’s all the way on the other side of the mall. Our local mall is not huge, but it was a good walk away. I had to navigate some steps and make a turn to head near Friendly’s, thankfully it was not crowded at 2PM on a Wednesday afternoon. I did know where I was going, after all this IS our local mall…. And there was Elaine waiting for me… (Sorry no ice cream though!)…

The lessons second half took place in Boscov’s, at the steps… We reviewed cane step technique. We then talked about escalators, and noted how the steps move, and the sounds they make.

EscalatorHere come them blinder glasses again… Elaine lead me around the store a bit using sighted guide technique to “get me lost“… and we approached the escalators again… by sound I knew we were close… Feel the rail she says, it’s pulling away, extend the cane and feel it catch the moving steps and how it pulls away; lift-click, lift-click, lift-click, as it lifts the cane. We must be going to head up… We did… Cool!

Now we walk around a bit again to confuse me, remember with the blinder glasses I cannot see at all. We approached the escalator again, feel the rail, it’s pulling away… we know at least it’s not the down escalator or it would be “pushing” us not “pulling“… I extend the cane to feel it catch the moving steps and how it pulls away; pull-tap, pull-tap, pull-tap… wait a minute, something’s different…

Elaine explained that sound and the LIFT of the cane is the key… Either escalator will pull you on, but how do you know if you are going upstairs or downstairs, escalator on-platforms are flat… Going up you’ll hear the pronounced CLICK as the cane LIFTS AND DROPS on each step. For a down escalator you will hear more of a TAP then a click, and the cane won’t be lifted, just be pulled… A eureka moment for sure! We went up and down a few more times, with no trouble.

The elevator lesson was very short. Only to mention that most elevators beep or chime for each floor you are on, and to count the beeps to determine what floor you’re on. Since our Boscov’s only has three floors, counting the roof parking, we will need to review this lesson in a bigger building and a better functioning elevator.

With tasks complete, I was told to navigate back threw the mall again, alone, but this time meet Elaine at TGI Friday’s… And while I’m at it, stop in, and ask for a take-out menu. So off I set. – Not many problems, I made one tiny wrong turn, but realized it right way, and made it OK. Popped in, asked for a menu, and met Elaine at the door. – Be noted, I didn’t care for inside Friday’s it’s kind of dark, and bar like, I dislike dark restaurants, it’s even harder for me to see.

compusI then navigated AGAIN back threw the mall to Dick’s Sporting Goods to meet Elaine, and we left… In all this lesson went well, and Elaine says I am picking things up very fast. With hopefully nicer weather next week, we will do more street work, as that is where I still need the most help.

As for roaming the mall by my self, my comfort level was around a 3 out of 5, even though it was our local mall, I am still not use to navigating large places by my self. We will work on this. Elaine says we just need a bigger mall! – Oh joy! Yes it’s true, we do have the King of Prussia Mall here in PA, and it’s the largest shopping mall on the East Coast of the United States… Crap… – Well, at least there is an Apple Store in there!

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

Orientation and Mobility: Anatomy of an Intersection

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!

Orientation and Mobility: Trust the Cane + Steps!

Well today I had yet another exciting mobility lesson with Elaine; and I do mean exciting, and nerve-racking to say the least. Today was yet another “Trust the Cane” exercise, this time at a local mall; but not to worry it was not too crowded on a Wednesday afternoon, so people were not the main issue at hand.

We entered and she instructed me to make my way to the mall center court with perfect cane technique… no problem. We stopped and discussed the finer points of using the directory to locate stores. She pointed out that our local mall directory is not that well thought out, in that they only direct you to a section where a store is located, the stores on the map itself are not individually labeled.

She instructed me to note my location, and I can sight the large store signs of the main stores, with minimal trouble. Landmarks where always a strong point for me, this is not an issue. I would rather travel by landmark then direction. We then continued and made our way to Boscov’s… Entered and I was instructed to locate the stairs and escalators. – Oh yes, we know what is coming now!

At the stairs, we reviewed cane technique and what the cane can tell you about the stairs. The treads height, depth, and width; all good things to know. Is the step high, or low? Wide or narrow? Is their carpeting or are they solid.

Transferring the cane to my left hand to hold the railing with my right. You hold the cane about mid shaft, with the thumb down arm extended out and elbow locked. Resting your cane on the second step you push outward for each step up you take so the cane “clicks” each step in front of you… When you reach the top, the cane will swing away, with no click… This is how you know you have reached the top, or a landing.

Oh but wait, we have even more fun. Because after you go up, you must come down!

This is by far one of the most nerve-racking experiences any person who is blind or can’t see well DREADS; taking a header down a flight of steps. I am no different, going up is not the problem, it’s going down!


Again, a technique. Locate the edge and feel the cane drop. FEEL THE EDGE WITH YOUR FOOT. I missed it the first time! CRAP! – I feel like Wile Coyote on the edge of a cliff!

After locating the edge, the cane is transferred to the left hand again to hold the rail with the right. Extending the cane out and slightly down like a spear, you take your step holding the cane just above the passing steps. You walk down until you feel the cane hit, you have one more step, and you are at your landing.

Are we having fun yet?

Oh wait; yes, we are going to have LOADS of fun now! Here come them blinder glasses again. Now we do it all again. BLIND! – CRAP, CRAP, CRAP! The adrenaline level went from OK I am fine with this to WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING in one second flat.

Being extra careful, and moving extra slow. I made my way back up the steps. Turned and made my way back down slowly. And up and down about a dozen more times like this. With Elaine always by my side, if I did manage to miss a step; how ever it did not make me feel any better.

We finished this lesson on the steps, removed them damn glasses and made our way back out of the mall. What a fun day! NOT! I wonder what we will do next week?