The Joys of Getting Around in the Public Eye

Editor’s note: This is part of a series on the theme of Laughter is Often the Best Medicine. We often find it difficult to laugh at situations when we blunder if we are struggling to find our equilibrium of adjusting to life’s demands along with vision loss. In time, we realize one of the best therapies for learning to accept and value our visually impaired selves is to laugh at our faux pas. Read, enjoy, share….

Tweety Bird’s Mobility Instruction

Written by Peer Advisor Lynda Jones

clip art of tweety bird standing

Several years ago while teaching at Florida State University, I decided to do something innovative with my summer recreation and leisure course. The class was small and comprised of professional women in the field of blindness. So, I suggested that the practical part of the course take place on a cruise ship. Needless to say, no one declined the offer.

To meet the teaching objective of the course, the students chose a recreational activity to research and teach the others while at sea. Two students decided that we needed special T-shirts to wear on board ship. The night before we sailed they blindfolded everyone and taught us how to do silk screening without vision.

The next day we boarded the ship, sporting our yellow T-shirts with our group picture plastered on the front and captioned “Out of Sight Girls!” The group was quite diverse, tall, short, young, older, black, white, Hispanic, three sighted, and five visually impaired! It wasn’t long before we were quite the spectacle.

Another objective of the course was to evaluate the accessibility of the ship. Ours was an older ship with a paucity of braille signage which created a problem from time to time. Although our rooms were near one of the atriums with elevators and stairs, invariably I turned the wrong direction at the bottom of the stairs and headed down the hall on the wrong side of the ship.

By the second day, I was determined to solve my problem. Wanting to avoid a crowd in the atrium, I rose early, dressed, and called Sharon’s room, our only orientation and mobility instructor. Getting up early has never been Sharon’s idea of starting the day, but to help me she said she would meet me at the atrium.

Sharon looked around for landmarks or a place we could put a braille label to use as a landmark. Then she began working with me on the stairs and eventually at the elevators. By this time, passengers were gathering around the elevators to go to breakfast. One man, who apparently heard our conversation, stepped forward and started offering suggestions. As he spoke, he looked first at Sharon and then at me, and back at Sharon. Irritated by his interruption and sounding miffed, I said, “Sir, this lady is a professional and knows what she is doing!” What I didn’t know was Sharon still had on her Tweety Bird pajamas.

Lady, Do You Need Help Finding Your Car?

by Empish Thomas, Peer Advisor

Empish standing at a street corner, white cane in hand

Shortly after losing a large amount of my vision, I wore very thick bifocals and used a white cane. The glasses helped me with my center vision and the white cane helped with depth perception and peripheral vision loss.

So, one day I was walking out of my office building through the parking deck in order to get to the bus stop. My orientation and mobility instructor had taught me how to navigate the parking deck by trailing the back of the parked cars in the deck. As I trailed the cars with my left hand and swung my white cane with my right hand, a man approached me and said, “Lady, do you need help finding your car?”

When I heard what he said I immediately began to chuckle. Then I stopped myself because I thought I was being rude. I realized that maybe the man did not see my white cane and so I turned my whole body in his direction. I held up my white cane in full view and said, “No thank you, I am blind and don’t have a car.” I then turned back around and continued to trailed the backs of the parked cars. As I continued on, he said to me again, “Lady, do you need help finding your car?” After this second time, I couldn’t hold it in and bent over giggling. After having a hearty laugh, I turned to the man, smiled, waved and continued on to my destination.