O & M Patrol

Posted By on April 30, 2007


On Saturday March 31st, my husband Troy and I participated in a training session through the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired called O&M(orientation and mobility) Patrol. The goals were to get an idea of what its like to live with low vision and to gain a better understanding of various ways to improve orientation and mobility for our daughter. There were a total of 48 parents and grandparents of children with visual impairments. First, we listened to/watched a presentation covering the basics of orientation and mobility. Orientation is knowing where you are in space and where you want to go and mobility is being able to carry out a plan to get there. We learned a lot of great techniques, activities, and tools to help at all the various ages and stages of our child’s development. We even got to look at and play with a few “mobility tools” like a white cane and this electronic sensor thingy that vibrated in your hand when you walked too close to an obstacle. Honestly, before this training, the idea of Lyra ever using a white cane to get around gave me a huge lump in my stomach. It’s not such a scary thought anymore.
After our classroom instruction it was on to the field training. We were all grouped into pairs and then assigned a coach. Troy and I were together. Each group was given a pair of simulator goggles that simulated as closely as possible, the vision of their child. Our goggles simulated 20/400 vision. They also gave us money…$3.25…wooohoooo! I wore the goggles first. All 48+ of us had the same assignment. We had to walk out of the building to the bus stop on the corner, take the city bus to Crown Center Plaza (DON’T FORGET TO ASK FOR A TRANSFER), walk around the shopping center and buy something for less than $2.00. Then we switched, and Troy basically did the same thing and then took the bus back.
At first, wearing the goggles was a little nauseating. Even just walking was weird feeling. One difference that I noticed right away was my depth perception. Its hard to sit down on a bench when you aren’t exactly sure how far away it is or knowing where to put your foot to step onto an escalator. I couldn’t read street signs from the bus and when we went into a coffee shop to buy something I couldn’t read the menu. Thank goodness I had my “sighted guide” Troy there to help me order my coffee. I also frequently found myself putting my face really close to things. I doubt someone would want to buy any of the bagels after watching me with my nose an inch away from them trying to see what kind they were. That kind of made me sad…worrying about what onlookers might think of my child. Overall, my vision wasn’t THAT bad, which was comforting. I would have liked to take the goggles home to wear longer and see what it would be like to do all the stuff I normally do with low vision.
This program was a wonderful learning experience. We each received our own little award certificate in recognition of completing the O&M training. We were also sent home with a huge packet of information and resources for orientation and mobility. And even though it only lasted a short time, I was very grateful that I had the opportunity to take a look at the world through my daughter’s eyes…kind of.

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