The Braille Monitor February, 2004
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Rollerblading: Advice from the Voice of Experience
From the Editor: I was the first one on my street to master roller skating. These were the old over-the-shoe skates that we tightened with keys that we then wore around our necks. I taught the other girls in my crowd to skate and went to the skating rink with them when we got older. In college I took two quarters of ice skating to fulfill my physical education requirement. It frankly never occurred to me to use my cane on the ice rink, and I certainly did not use a cane when I was roller skating. I would have been much safer if I had. I don't believe it ever occurred to me to wonder what other blind kids did about skating either. My full concentration was fixed on straining to see enough to keep from falling myself or tripping other skaters.
What a refreshing and healthy departure from my experience was the following exchange of emails among members of the student division. Here is the series of messages that recently appeared on the National Association of Blind Students (NABS) listserv:
Amber Wallenstein, Ohio: I love to rollerblade, but I haven't done it in the last few years. I used to do it using a sighted guide but was wondering if anyone does it with a cane? If so, could you let me know how it goes and how successful you are?
Stacy Cervenka, Minnesota: Amber, there are actually quite a few of us who rollerblade with canes here in Minneapolis. Most of the blind rollerbladers I've encountered have been on the many bike and inline skate trails that run along the lakes and many of the main roads here in the Mini Apple. The five recommendations I'd personally make are:
1. Most blind folks I know (including me) usually feel comfortable rollerblading alone only in familiar areas and on bike trails. Bike and inline skate trails are great because they're outdoors, there're always tons of fun people around, and the paths are usually fairly smooth and well maintained. Also there aren't usually any obstacles. When I attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, I often rollerbladed to class, but I would never do that here at the U of M [University of Minnesota].
2. Use a cane that's at least taller than you are. You're higher up off the ground when you're on rollerblades, and you're also traveling faster.
3. I used to use a Rainshine cane [a solid fiberglass cane] to rollerblade, but I've found that the hollow fiberglass canes work just as well, and they're much lighter.
4. Whatever you do, do not use a telescoping cane when rollerblading alone. Talk about a recipe for disaster!
5. If you haven't rollerbladed alone much or you haven't rollerbladed alone since you became blind, start slowly and get used to it. Experiment with how long it takes you to stop and how much warning your cane gives you. As I say, this is why bike trails are so nice. Your local neighborhood sidewalks would probably be okay, but maybe wait to try them until after you've gotten a little more confident.
Anyway, I don't know whether or not any of this is useful to you, but good luck. I think everyone on the NABS list should immediately get up from your computers, lace up your inline skates, and go terrify large numbers of sighted folks.
Steve Decker, Iowa: Hi all. I have rollerbladed and used quad skates at roller rinks before. We were given the opportunity to do this for gym class last year in high school, so I signed up. I used a cane and stayed sort of close to the walls. This was good because people on the outside go faster anyway. I almost ran into some people because I was going too fast, not because I didn't know they were there. It helped me practice turning instead of stopping. I rarely fell, and I don't remember tripping anyone who didn't deserve it. I have rollerbladed outside a little, too.
The National Association of Blind Students (NABS)
NABS is a division of the National Federation of the Blind. Established in 1967, NABS is an organization of blind high school, college, and graduate students dedicated to securing equality and opportunity for all blind students. Through advocacy and collective action we work to maintain high standards and expectations of education for blind students across the country as we address relevant issues that face us. Such issues include Disabled Students Services offices, relationships between consumers and state rehabilitation agencies, and validation of standardized gateway tests such as the GRE and LSAT.
NABS has a listserv to which we encourage students and parents of blind children to subscribe. Just send a message to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Leave the subject line blank, and write, “subscribe nabs-l” in the body of the message. NABS also offers a semi-annual publication, The Student Slate, which contains articles written by blind students about their experiences because of blindness. We invite students to submit articles.
In addition we meet twice a year--at national convention and Washington Seminar. At both the annual meeting and seminar we discuss current issues of concern to blind students and hear from fellow Federationists about their success in academia, which often comes with hard work and a sound Federation philosophy. We invite everyone to join us at these meetings. They are not only insightful but full of energy.
The NABS board consists of nine positions. The offices and the people currently serving are as follows: Angela Wolf, president; Jason Ewell, first vice president; Kimberly Aguillard, second vice president; Allison Hilliker, secretary; Ryan Strunk, treasurer; and Tony Olivero, Ronit Ovadia, Mary Jo Thorpe, and Tai Tomasi, board members.
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