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A Sighted Momís First Mobility Lesson
by Lydiah Schuck
Reprinted from the April 2000, Michigan Focus, a publication of the NFB of Michigan.††††
Nathan and Lydiah Schuck, with daughters May and Amy, take a break in the Childrenís Room while touring the National Center for the Blind, headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind, Baltimore, Maryland.
I got started late, so I joined a group already in progress on their lesson. I slipped on the sleepshades (blindfolds) and Geer Wilcox directed my first steps Ė onto an escalator! I think starting late was a mistake. I should at least have walked down a hallway with the aid of the cane before I tried that escalator. But to Geerís credit, I made a successful trip down to the hotel lobby.
What an amazing feeling! Getting off the escalator and, later, getting off the elevator, felt like ... well, have you ever been roller skating? Can you recall the way your feet feel like they are still moving, even when you are done skating? I think there must be something about this that is similar in my brain, because I felt like my feet were still moving as I stepped off the escalator.
As my travel lesson went on, I left Geer and went on with the help of Adam Emerson. Adam has a great teaching style and a wonderful comforting voice. [Editorís note: Adam is the blind son of Sunny Emerson, a former officer in the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Now, about a decade later, her son has become a role model for other parents!] Adam helped me to locate a phone booth. I called my husband to tell him what I was doing, and his response was, ďDid you tell me about this meeting? How come I never know about these things? Iíd like a cane lesson, too.Ē So, I guess heíll be at the next parent seminar.
We went up in the elevator. Adam told the other people in the elevator to let me find the numbers myself. We went down to the basement and up several floors before I found the Braille number seven, and I was a bit embarrassed. I realized pretty quickly that it didnít matter.
Itís not like a subway where if I missed my stop, Iíd be in the next county or something. We eventually got to the seventh floor.
It will still take me a few trips to believe my cane when it tells me that, yes, there is solid floor outside the open door of the elevator. It was a surprise to me to realize how much I rely on my eyes to step out of an elevator. I was afraid to get out at first.
We proceeded to the high point of my mobility lesson: taking a walk with Anna, my daughter, who was playing in the child care room. She was delighted that I appeared at the door with my cane. She dragged me down the hallway, quite a switch from the usual parent‑pulling, dawdling≠-child scenario. Adam took us down the hall and into a stairwell where we went up and down some steps. Anna had to climb the railings, too. Listening to all this activity gave me a new appreciation for blind parents. I would certainly need to learn some new ways of monitoring my childrenís activities if I were blind.
We went back to the child care room, left Anna there, and then went to explore the pool area. Itís a strangely‑shaped pool, Adam told me, and I believe him because it kept popping up in the most unexpected places. The pool area was a bit of a sensory overload for me. There were voices near and further away, the smell of chlorine, the repeated bang of my cane against the deck chairs, echoes, and the continuing sense that I was about to drop over the edge. But I never did!
As we moved around the hotel lobby, hallways, stairwell, and pool area, I began to notice how the sound of the room could give me an idea of its dimensions. I could hear the open lobby below me as I went up and down the escalator. Some places just sounded smaller. I started to notice the wall in front of me, or the coke machine I passed by.
Near the end of my walk, I became careless, not trying so hard. I thought, ďIf I can just get back to the second floor, I can take off these sleepshades.Ē So at the very end of my walk, though I gained a new appreciation for the cane as a tool, I still wanted to be back in my comfort zone. For my child, mobility with a cane is her comfort zone. It was a delight to be able to have a visit in her world.
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