Finding focus in a blurry world…
11,800 hours… This is the amount of time it has been since Kit’s initial contact with the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (Pennsylvania). In this time she has had only 6 (six) hours of Orientation and Mobility services. This is basically an evaluation phase and not really considered official training.
My own Orientation and Mobility training and first contact didn’t take nearly as long as this. In fact from my first contact with Montgomery County to the time I actually started O&M training I’d guess was about 4 months. After this it was basically uninterrupted services until I finished.
It truly is mind boggling the difference in the level of services provided. Simply put the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS) is a state run organization and they serve a vastly larger area then what the Montgomery County Association for the Blind does.
The reasons we chose to go with BBVS for Kit’s services as opposed to MCAB (where I had mine) where really simple. We knew some one who worked for them! The instructor had oodles of free time and would basically be able to see Kit at any time through out the week… even offering training on weekends if needed. – This would be a great option, because at the time Kit was still seeing multiple doctors, and could not really settle into a fixed schedule of weekly visits like I did.
Our instructor friend gathered all of the necessary paperwork they needed and submitted it to BBVS for review. Countless misplaced documents and lost faxes (otherwise known as the BBVS Business Office black hole) and some necessary certification red tape later – about 12 months later…!
Kit was finally cleared for her evaluation time of 6 hours around the middle of October 2011. The evaluation is a way for the O&M instructor to gather information about the student and assess their needs; and is a means of determining a lesson plan to continue future O&M training with set goals. – Kit obviously needs more training. So this was noted in the O&M report – this report is then sent to BBVS as a request for more training hours. (This is how instructors get paid for their time).
The request for more training hours was submitted and we can only guess it’s sitting on some ones desk (or the quantum singularity of a black hole). – The latest we hear is that BBVS simply “does not have the budget” to provide training at this time. (as of February 2012).
I have contacted a few advocate groups. And it’s funny that the mere mention of the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (Philadelphia) office brings groans of dislike and drudgery. To be told that it’s COMMON for clients to wait 12-18 MONTHS before they receive services. This is truly disgraceful!
The fact of the matter is that Kit’s life – and to an extent mine… is on hold until she can get proper Orientation and Mobility training. She is not an independent traveler. She can not cross a street, navigate to a chosen location, travel in unfamiliar areas or ride the bus to meet up with friends. More importantly she can not independently travel to her doctors appointments! Also basic safety skills could be significantly improved if she had proper training. (blind people call this “self protection techniques”. – not knocking your head on the cabinet, for example). These are all things a properly trained Orientation and Mobility specialist would teach.
It seems the consensus in “Big Government” is that it’s OK to wait for services. After all, a disabled person has nothing better to do with their life. I suppose they think it’s cheaper to pay SSI benefits of $8000-$12,000 a year then pay for proper training that would allow the person to get off of SSI and off ‘the system’ to get a real job.
This is far from over.
Feel free to re-blog this article or link and distribute in any manor you see fit. If you know a representative, advocate, or a good lawyer, by all means pass it on! As always comments are very welcome. (Kindly use the form below.)
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In 1921, James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol, England, became blind following an accident. Because he was feeling uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home, he painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible. In 1930, the late George A. Bonham, President of the Peoria Lions Club (Illinois) introduced the idea of using the white cane with a red band as a means of assisting the blind in independent mobility. The Peoria Lions approved the idea, white canes were made and distributed, and the Peoria City Council adopted an ordinance giving the bearers the right-of-way to cross the street.
News of the club’s activity spread quickly to other Lions clubs throughout the United States, and their visually handicapped friends experimented with the white canes. Overwhelming acceptance of the white cane idea by the blind and sighted alike quickly gave cane users a unique method of identifying their special need for travel consideration among their sighted counterparts. Also in 1931, in France, Guilly d’Herbemont recognized the danger to blind people in traffic and launched a national “white stick movement” for blind people. She donated 5,000 white canes to people in Paris.
Today white cane laws are on the books of EVERY STATE in the US and many other countries, providing blind persons a legal status in traffic. The white cane now universally acknowledges that the bearer is blind. For specific information contact your local government office for motor vehicles.
White Cane Safety Days:
To make the American people more fully aware of the meaning of the white cane and of the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind person who carries it, on October 6, 1964, the U.S. Congress approved a resolution authorizing the President of the US to annually issue a proclamation designating October 15th as “National White Cane Safety Day.”
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), a leading organization for the blind, has established the third week in May as “White Cane Week.” During this week, a special concentration of efforts to educate the public concerning the hopes and aspirations of the blind is emphasized.
It should be noted White Cane Law, also extends to all persons with a Guide or Service Dog as well. Please respect the White Cane Law and what it means. Don’t be a jerk!
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After we arrived at Market Street Station, we took a moment to look around. The train platform area is very large. Elaine took time to explain how the station was setup. There are two sides, in-bound and out-bound, with two tracks each (a total of 4 tracks), and an A-Section and B-Section. Depending on your destination, you need to be in either A-Section or B-Section and on Track 1, 2, 3, or 4. It’s really not too hard to understand, because one side is always IN, and the other side is always OUT. All the trains are also color-coded.
We identified the track numbers; they are clearly marked in huge letters above the trains stop area. I can read them with little trouble. We walked the length of the platform and located the A-Section and B-Section steps that lead to the main level of the station and all the shops above.
We went to the second level and looked around, again a very large open area, with shops and steps on the outside. Some areas of the station in this level are poorly lit. This is unsettling to me, because it’s even harder for me to see. Using the stations electronic signage is useless to me because of the way the LED’s are setup. By the time I get close enough to read a sign, the LED’s are no longer at a suitable viewing angle and they disappear. So much for using the schedule board.
We located the restrooms, newsstands, and small flower shop. These are good landmarks. We also noticed the entrance to The Gallery, an area of the station that opens to the major shopping store area above; a major attraction of the station.
Elaine explained how the station covered three city blocks underground from 10th Street to 12th Street. And we located the steps to venture up to street level. We did walk around some of the building at street level. The noise of traffic and the volume of people was a bit overwhelming. However, a street level lesson would come later. So we headed back into the station.
Elaine sent me around to locate different areas and the landmarks we saw. We also took the time to talk to customer service and see when the next train would be back to return home and Norristown Transportation Center. That being the 2:17, Track 1, Section A.
This concluded our lesson for the day. So I found the section I was to wait in and Elaine snuck off to blend in with the crowd and observe. Obviously she had to ride the train home with me but by blending in and observing it allows me to make my own decisions.
As I waited for the train, a large group of older ladies descended down the steps and milled around in front of me. I thought I was about to get swept up with a group of church ladies or something. One of them called my name! Very perplexed and wondering who the hell could it be… I knew the voice, but drew a blank on the face, as I often do… I come to find that it was Mrs. Landis, one of my former Pottstown Middle School teachers. Of all the people you’d never expect to meet, never in my life would I have thought about meeting her in the middle of Philly – at a train platform. She was in town with about 30 other retired Pottstown teachers (the large group) for an art tour and was heading home. Like me, to Norristown Transportation Center, then driving.
I explained to her what I was up to, and she was impressed, and proud that I’m getting out and about… The train pulled in, and we where off… I grabbed a seat near the front; the car was kind of full so Mrs. Landis took the seat next to me. At least now I’d have some one to talk to on the way home; and we did!
The rest of the trip was uneventful. As the train pulled into NTC, I said goodbye to Mrs. Landis and I left in a hurry with Elaine to help guide me to the bus, the connection time was less then 8 minutes! If I’d miss the bus, I’d be stuck at NTC for another hour!
She rushed me to the bus and I headed home. Still baffled of all things to see a former teacher of mine on the train!
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