Virtual Blindness, Training The Trainers


Virtual Blindness, Training The Trainers

     The stress lines on the man’s face visible beyond where the dark cloth of the sleep-shade covered, told the story of his first travel lesson with the long white cane. Probing, tapping, he strove to interpret the information provided by the cane. "Is this a drop-off --- and this metal thing --- could be the upright for a handrail?"

     The nearby instructor, cane standing vertical at his side, responded, "What do you think?"

     "I got it!” The woman’s finger read the Braille label on the brightly colored tube in her hand. “F, M --- face moisturizer. Wahoo! I made and read my own label.” The woman was one of four sleep-shaded adults working at a round table. In the center of the table, were Braille slates, sticky-backed labels and other materials. In front of each student were bottles, tubes and other personal items.

     "I’m not getting this as fast as you, Marilyn." Spoke up one of her table mates. "And, you guys, I’m going to need to take my meds, so how else can I tell them apart, until I get Braille?"

     "What do you think you might do?" A third woman responded. "That is what I think the instructor would say. I know you’ll figure out something for today and you’ll get your alphabet tomorrow."

     The only man at the table held a green pair of pants over his lap, tying the finishing knot to a sewing project. "There we go.” Finger reading the small plastic tag he had just sewn into the waistband. “G, R --- green. I like these tags. And who would ever think you could thread a needle, blind."

     Carrying their canes, all 30 sleep-shaded students met at lunch. "Attention please. This is your first meal you will handle being virtually blind. It will be a learning time --- think, experiment, discover and if necessary ask for instruction. When you look back at the end of two weeks, it will be interesting to see the contrast between now and then. So line up, get your own tray, utensils, go through the line, then find your place at table."

"Ah--- need to cut this piece smaller." Spoke up the first person at the table of six.

"Yeah, cutting takes some concentration, but hey ---" responded a tablemate, "I suppose I struggled with it back when I was five with my vision and got it then, so I’ll get it now."

     A third person said, "I came into this knowing the first part of this training was going to be stressful. But I know it will smooth out."

A fourth tablemate volunteered, "Giving up your sight for a full two weeks, from wakeup to lights-out, no peeking, and proving to myself that I can function non-visually, is going to give me some insights that I’d never have without this opportunity."

     "You know,” contributed a fifth tablemate, “I tried talking my rehab agency into requiring new staff go through 3 to 6 months of sleep-shade training like some services for the blind do, but to no avail. And so when I heard of this two-week training for rehab professionals, I jumped on it."

"It’s the method of training, the structuring of the learning situation and the insistence on self-discovery, making you work and work at it until you make it yours, that is the part I’m soaking up. These instructors are tough on it --- but hey, guess the results will be in the expectations." concluded the sixth.

     On screen the leader of the workshop spoke to a camera team from a local television station. "We have 30 professionals in the field of blindness participating in this first Virtual Blindness Training in our Train the Trainers series. They are evenly divided between rehabilitation teachers and vocational counselors, all working with adult blind persons in their jobs. The purpose of this training is to provide the student with an experience of virtual blindness, of being newly blind, needing to learn basic survival skills. It is 24-7, for 2 weeks. And I underscore: it is not to experience the reality of what it is to be blind, nor will the blindness skills being learned be fully perfected. However, the participant will come out of here knowing that in his guts, with true conviction, and not just intellectually, that he or she and others can function competently non-visually. Finally, we are using the most effective teaching method for this type of learning, the Structured Discovery Method."


e-mail responses to

**1. Each individual comes to vision loss and blindness with the skills and knowledge acquired in his or her lifetime; others are newly mastered out of necessity. Rehabilitation workers must always remember that. Reteaching is unnecessary. Most of us can figure out a way to do what we have always done, even if vision loss is new.

People continually ask me about cooking and dressing, skills I had mastered before the age of 25. As a blind adult, I still cooked and dressed--and still do. However, as a teenage driver, I lacked good driving skills.
Sometimes I believe the cane travel skills resemble my former driving techniques. That sense of direction always required practice.

And an additional technique I added to my attack skills as a blind woman was humor. I am funnier as a blind person than I ever was as a sighted individual. Humor saves me in awkward situations. Stories about situations help me ease out of awkward moments. They can also assist if I am meeting new people. Social situations can be tough, and humor becomes my friend.

I mention this because humor can get out of hand in training sessions where sighted people "play" blind for certain periods of time. These trainings demand instructors who can achieve balance. Laughter might become roadblocks to the goals for the program. Fears are real for those facing blindness. Experiences are never identical. Humor, too, is an honest emotion.

A combination of practical experiences for workers can only add to their comprehension of challenges facing their clients. Expectations must be high, but the client must never feel inferior or "stupid" for making mistakes. That is why these kinds of sessions are occasionally called "sensitivity" training. Humor must be handled with special consideration.

I believe blindness caused me to become more of an extrovert. Social situations demand conversation. Trainees might observe that change in themselves while under the blindfold. Questions and conversation are needed for good instruction and practice. Experiences teach.

I am happy to be thinking about training workers in the blindness field!

Pat Harmon New Jersey)

**2. First: Is this type of sensory deprivation training good for the eyes? Is it a realistic simulation of blindness? I don't think it is, unless a particularly newly blinded person should lose his eyesight suddenly or traumatically. However, it possesses many useful elements of a good training space. I think that those who participate in this training should be told, at the end of their two-week period, that "a person born blind or who has had no sight for decades will do everything you did twice as fast and more efficiently, plus they will be able to do things you couldn't master in two weeks; this is the crumb of proof that shows you there's a whole uneaten cake out there."

Second: Aside from possibly the one observer at the beginning of the piece, there are no blind people pointed out as helping with the training. Where are the *REAL* blind people? :)

Third: It is my hope that, in addition to the "traditional methods,"
and tools of the blind--Braille, tape labels, clothing tags, etc.-- that just as much emphasis is being put on using imagination, innovation and whatever works for that particular individual. If someone comes to the instructor and says "I don't need to label these two bottles--the caps are completely differently shaped, and their textures are noticeably different," I should that this would be accepted as good observational and memory skills. While labels and tags are very useful, it two collars are completely different, then so are the two shirts to which they are attached, and simple memory obviates the need to put a sticker on something, or remember a route, etc.

Mark BurningHawk

**3. I really wish this would pick and be a requirement because I really like the idea!
I really think it would teach not only the people such as rehab counselors who help us or at least that's there job. I also think this would be something good for those who are not in the field of blindness to go threw because I think they would have something personally to take away by having some idea of how we as blind people do things.
Maybe there would be more respect for the things we can do independently.


**4. I kind of figured something like this might be necessary. I've often wondered how I
might train someone. One thing I do know is, unless there are some firmly-established
rules, there can be no "textbook method" of training a blind person. If there is one, I'd
like to learn it.
It's not like teaching languages, in which you must take a step-by-step, building-
block approach of alphabet, phonics, spelling, definitions, parts of speech, sentence
structure, and so on. Nor is training the blind mathematical, such as memorizing basic
arithmetic tables, formulas, algebra, etc. All of these things must follow a rigid and
inflexible pattern. Ignorance of even the smallest portion of these lessons causes
ignorance of all.

Training of the blind seems to vary from one school of thought to another. Some
believe that everyone MUST learn to use a cane; others recognize that certain people
need or prefer dogs. Every trainer and every agency has its own idea of what "must"
be done, and how to do it. It seems more philosophical than scientific.
But, after reading this story, I find myself asking more questions than it can answer.

The most important question is, "Where would I begin?" In all the things a blind person
must learn, what is the order of importance? The confusing part is that all of these
trainees seem to be all over the place, doing all kinds of different things, rather than
all of them doing the same thing, mastering it, then moving on. Maybe it's just me,
but I'm not comfortable with this "buffet-table" approach. It makes me worry that I've
skipped too many steps.

To your credit, Mister Newman, at least you're not narrow-minded. This story shows
that you believe a sighted person can be an effective trainer of the blind. Over the
years, I've read of overly-proud blind people who think ONLY a blind person can or
should TRAIN a blind person. Or that I would have to BE blind in order to "understand"
the blind. This is like saying that I'd have to be dead to be a coroner. (We're both
human beings; isn't that enough to start with?) But I'll bet you that somebody will write
in to complain that a sighted person shouldn't bother trying.

David Lafleche RI

**5. Superficially, it sounds like a good idea. But upon further thought, some problems with it come to mind. First of all, it's an artificial situation.
As difficult as it may be for people during the training, they know the experience is temporary. At the end of the two weeks, the sleep shades come off and they go back to their real lives. This is part of work for which they are being paid and their jobs and income depend on doing as well as they can so they're highly motivated. Where they are psychologically and emotionally, will have a great effect on the learning process. The learning process for blind clients is very different. First of all, this isn't a temporary experiment. Their vision impairment is permanent and it has a profound psychological and emotional impact on their self image and on their emotional state. Because they differ from each other, the impact will vary and, therefore, the effect on the learning process will vary. Additionally, there are differences in intelligence and other capabilities, as well as differences in degree of sight. I do not believe that a person with good partial vision can or should be taught to function effectively as a totally blind person. People should be helped to use whatever residual vision they have in doing tasks. You can't shortcut in advance, the kind of learning that must take place when all useable sight is gone. So the rehabilitation model that is being used in this training is inadequate to prepare professionals for the real demands of rehabilitation.

Miriam ACB-l listserv

**6. I think it would be more realistic to make the blindfolded staff whine a little more. Regular students whine and complain but immersion staff really whine. It gets to the point that when I get an immersion student in class, I turn them over and start looking for the vintage number to see if they were a good year. I like the bed to bed immersion idea. Does anyone really get to do that? Deprive them of their cars for two whole weeks so they will have some vague notion how we have to plan when we run errands.

Later buddy,
Jane Lansaw TX

**7. So what is next? I am in favor of anyone who works with persons who are blind or who have low vision need some “virtual experiences” under a blindfold. However, so you prove to these individuals that they can eat, move about, label, sew etc. Great! However, why not also have these individuals experience “virtual low vision” using simulators. The truth of the matter is that the majority of individuals coded as blind are not blind. And these individuals use their vision and have a right to use it. And it is our responsibility as professionals to provide strategies and tools to enable persons who have low vision to use their remaining vision efficiently. I am sick of this “one size fits all approach”. I happen to be totally blind myself, and also happen to have a daughter who has low vision. She uses her vision efficiently thanks to the skils taught to her at school and by yours truly. I am certified in the area of visual impairments. My daughter drives using a low vision device, reads using magnifiers and a screen reader with speech and a myriad of other assistive technology devices. Both of us are educated and are employed. My daughter is an Orientation and Mobility Specialist who spent many hours under a blindfold and simulators depicting a variety of visual impairments to learn mobility techniques. The majority of her students ages birth to 22 have low vision. She only uses blindfolds sparingly if a student has a progressive impairment. Those of us who are blind benefit immensely from the skills we are taught to live our lives with dignity to ensure quality of life. We owe it to persons who have low vision to also live their lives with dignity by using vision efficiently. I believe that when focus is placed on having the media film persons waring blindfolds; it’s an exploitation of blindness. I’m reminded of an interview several of us who were blind or had low vision had with a reporter when I was in college. We were asked about tools we used and after we all gave our spiel; the final question was: “What other tricks do you do?” Rather than guffaw and throw her out; we told her that we hung upsidedown from the ceiling at night. She got the hint and laughed with us and apologized for her insensitivity. Therefore, when I hear about the media photographing individuals wearing blindfolds I suppose they are reporting on “tricks of the blind”.

Olivia Chavez AERnet list

**8. This is a good thought provoker in that it encourages sighted employees to know what it is like to be blind. However, I think that more effort should be put into making it manditory for braille instructors to be blind and accommodations being provided for them.

Ann Parsons Blind-X listserv

**9. i think with them having this experience it helps them to practice empathy.
When i went to New York to get my first guide dog there was a full class with one girl doing her training with a blindfold. I asked her at the end of her darkness how she felt and she said she understood some of the problems that may arise. Also most sighted folks that are training to help us but wont necessarily give it to us for nothingif they are good trainers.

Teal Bloodworth NFB Rehabilitation Professionals Msiling List

**10. True that they cannot get the psychological aspects of becoming blind, because they know that it is only temporary. But they don't need that in order to realize that a blind person can learn to function, and to learn how blind people do things. However, I don't think 2 weeks is a sufficient amount of time. It takes longer than that to get comfortable with doing things as a blind person, and the training would be most effective if the person were given enough time to become comfortable with what they were doing. I'd say it would need to be at least a month, maybe 2. Until then, they'd have the opinion that those tasks are hard, when, in reality, they may be easy for someone who has been at it for awhile.

Sarah Clark ACB-L listserv

**11. I was hard on my trainers! I was 17 when I first had Some Braille instruction. After I had sent my sighted first counselor back to the office, because he was sighted, a blind counselor came. He explain how the Braille cell worked and left me a book. He told me not to learn be on the
letter J until he came back in two weeks. When he came back, I new the
alphabet, I new the numvers and I could read the book he left me. Do you think he learned something? He told me not to worry about learning Braille, for since I was a gril, I would only needed to write phone numbers and recipes!

Ermelinda Miller NFB Rehabilitation Mailing List

**12. this is one of your best provokers!. I am sending it to several people I know.
well written, engaging, presents the issues effectively.
the scene in the class is quite believable.

Jim Canaday M.A. Lawrence, KS

**13. As a Rehabilitation Teacher there are four words that tell me that my client is on the road to being rehabilitated.
"I Can Do It!"
It's that full, emotional realization that the client feels success. No doubt about it. No stepping back to analyze it. No hedging bets. No. It is, "I Can Do It!"
We can talk rehabilitation until we are blue in the face. We can study it in a text book. We can point to many examples of folks successfully rehabilitated. But until our client says, "I Can Do It!" we are wasting both of our times.

Our agency used to put all new staff through a two week training under sleep shades. For those who embraced it, the training was a huge success. They went on to become

effective workers in the field. But many fought this training. There were more rational reasons than we can mention here, but my personal belief was that they did not want to demonstrate their lack of belief.
But they went into the field anyway, messing up many a blind persons hopes and dreams.
Great Rehab Teachers have that belief. They walk their clients through one success after another until they hear those magical words, "I Can Do It!"

Carl Jarvis ACB-L lisstserv

**14. My only comment is... why can't all teachers and others who work directly with blind people be put through this type of program.
Obviously it does little justice to what it is truly like to be blind since at the end of the program they can revert to their full sight, however for a brief period, they are in our shoes, which affords them a better understanding, if only for a little while.


**15. The alternative techniques and tools of the blind are just as efficient and reliable as sight, they are just a different way of accomplishing the same goal.
It is important that those who instruct the blind in these skills to have learned them without sight as well. How can we preach independence and ability with these skills if those teaching them never learned to fully rely on the skills? I have heard independent living instructors say that the totally blind can not teach the skills of the blind yet they expect us to utilize these skills. It makes no sense.
This is one of the reasons that any good agency for the blind requires not only students, but teachers learn the skills while using sleep-shades. It must be understood that the skills are reliable and completely efficient when used properly. Instructors also should understand the process and have first hand knowledge of what the experience is like. Would you want a football coach who had never played football? Or a foreign language teacher who does not know that particular language? Why then do we accept less when it comes to the training of the blind and those who instruct us?

Bridgit Pollpeter, NFB Omaha, NE

**16.. I have read this TP several times and each time I've read it I've heard alarm bells go off in my head and wondered why. After thinking about it for a while I'm ready to write down my thoughts and see where they lead me.
I believe that sleep shade training could be quite beneficial to people who are sighted and are interested in working in the field of blindness rehabilitation. I actually believe a sighted person could gain an idea of how we do things and why we need to have accomodations such as text-to-speech prompts on our appliances and braille labels on bottles and tubes, whether the braille is written and placed there by us or by the manufacturers. In other words, the basic premise of the piece you wrote is very good. So,

why did it bother me? It bothered me because it didn't seem realistic to me. You showed a bunch of people who were excited as they breezed through their tasks. Even the ones who were having some trouble were still hanging in there. Where were the people who were a bit fumble-fingered and not quite getting the hang of it? Where were the people who said "I wish I could just take off this sleep shade but I'll keep trying"? Where was the grit? It was like a great PR spot for blindness. It wasn't real even in the surface way that most essays are.

Chris Coulter

**17. I'm sure there will be a lot of discussion of this provoker. But, I think it's a wonderful thing.

So many sighted people, even the "professionals" are afraid of blindness.
They can't imagine how they could function, without sight. So, in this limited training session, these teachers will learn just how their blind students will learn, from them.

Notice, I didn't say that they'll learn what it's like to be blind. I don't think they can ever truly know that, even while under sleep shades. They always have the option of taking the sleep shade off and they can see, again. But, they can learn what it's like to perform everyday tasks, without sight. They may even learn to rely, a little more, on their hearing and other senses. They'll really know that the things they're asking their students to do can, indeed, be done by a blind person.

It's unfortunate that more agencies don't teach their instructors in this way. The result could be blind people coming out of class with more confidence, better skills and a positive image of blindness.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, Pa.

The instructor who blinds do not have that option to see. Being total blind most what I learn to deal with blindness was not teach by an instructor but learn the hard ways by myself. Adult family services people was here I just blow their mind how I got around in this house and how i DO THING AND STILL TAKE CARE of all timer Mother.

The best instructing is what you learn on your own because you will remember your mistakes.

Dexter Terry

**19. Are you joking? Do these training courses really exist?

I don't believe that someone that knows that in X days he will be able to see can really understand . I think that living as a blind person takes "practice". The more one uses a cane, knife and fork, meet people, the easier life becomes. I personally don't understand the need for intensive training, but that is perhaps because my sight deteriorated slowly and thus gave the time to "get used to " a new way of life

faith sussman

FROM ME- I wrote her back- Yes, I have taken part as a instructor in 2 of these 2 week workshops. though the sighted students were nnot required to remain blinded from wake-up to lights-out, only during class times and while moving from class to class, with the encouragement to use the shades during lunch hour. These were professionals who had no other option for sleep-shade training and came because they wished to experience their own challenge of functioning non-visually. And yes, to view/experience structured discovery method in action. In addition, I know of several state and private rehab services that require new staff to experience 4 and up to 6 months of sleep-shade training; with the purpose of the staffer proving to themselves that a person, including themselves can function non-visually.

**20. I have always been opposed to putting friends or family members under sleep shades or a blind fold for a short period of time and submit them to tasks and expect them to learn what it is like to be blind. Even if they are able to complete the task successfully they, more than likely, are going to struggle which will reinforce their preconceived ideas that being blind will put them and anyone else in a totally dependant situation.

Having said that I think a situation which you described in your short story would give participants enough time to learn skills and to have some success in completing tasks. Long term exercises of this type would not only be good for professionals, but also for friends and family members. I don’t think anyone would come out of a training exercise of this type knowing what it is like being blind, but with proper instruction they could develop an understanding that blind people can learn to be independent with proper training.

Larry Wayland Arkansas

**21. Yea it really does help to have a sighted instructor train under sleep-shades as for them to take seriously that they are training blind people who can't see.

Justin Williams NFB Writers' Division

**22. I must also observe that the federation's efforts to get blind people into those training positions is extremely important.
having a blind O&M instructor sends a lot of subtle messages along with the obvious can-do message.
subtly it says that being blind is really okay. being blind cannot prevent you from a position of teaching or authority. being blind might have strengths as well as weakness, and the live human as teacher and as model shows that.
just a few thoughts.

Jim Canaday M.A. NFB Writers' Division

**23. I read this TP three days after returning from a 5-week RV trip out west (with no internet access) and only a day after discovering to my horror that two of my favorite things are no more. First, the American Foundation for the Blind in NY has closed the first and -- in my opinion
-- best Talking Book studio in the NLS system. Second, the Board of Directors of the 100-year-old Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind, which has been a pioneer in providing Braille and recorded compilations of articles from the nation's best publications, has decided to disband the magazine and give all of their money to medical research to cure blindness. I understand that there is an optholmologist on the board who pushed for this. Over 200 Ziegler readers have already written to editor Gregory Evanina, who vehemantly opposes the decision, in protest (, but I am told that neither ACB nor NFB is willing to take on the issue.

In light of these facts, I experienced this month's TP as wildly optimistic. Nonetheless, I would like it very much if everyone who was on the boards of AFB and the Matilda Ziegler Foundation were required to take such a course.

Donna Hill, Meshoppen, PA

**24. I have assorted thoughts concerning this article.

We the reader gains knowledge of the occupation of the participants. Each of the partakers in this study are evenly divided between rehabilitation teachers and vocational counselors, all working with adult blind. The purpose of this training is to provide the student with an experience of virtual blindness, of being newly blind, needing to learn basic survival skills.

There are a few details that elude us concerning the people we are introduced to. We meet a woman who is excited she figured out the Braille letter she placed on the item she is holding. The letter is F. We are also told what is on the table, which I believe will play an important position in my conclusion.

Subsequently we meet a man who is worried about how will he mark his meds so he can identify them? The third woman asks,” What do you think you could do?” Just a random choice of words? I don’t believe her words were just accidental thoughts; she used those words before.

The only man sitting at the table is sewing. It’s possible that he was shocked that he could function sightless.

Rehabilitation teachers aren’t jacks of all trades. What I’m indicating is that an instructor, who teaches PM skills, doesn’t necessarily have to have HM abilities Braille or other such expertise for the blind.

We the reader are listening over there shoulders so to speak.

Our woman who was excited that she read the letter she made. Here I have mixed thoughts. How did she create this letter? We learn there was a slate on the table. Let’s consider this. The letter J she made was glued onto the tube.

What do we have to do when using a slate? We have to write the letters backwards. She had knowledge of the Braille cell; she also had to put the tape upside down through the slate. I’m not suggesting a Braille teacher; I’m just saying she has knowledge of Braille to be able to use the slate.

We are not enlightened on how many labels she made? If she made just one, wrote the letter wrong, she would still perceive that letter J as the letter she created. Now I ask you did she recognize the letter, or possibly she was able to identify the face moisturizer by feel?

The question I’m curious about is what was the occupation of each of these people. Who are the rehabilitation teachers, and who are the vocational counselors?

Let’s regress to the man wearing sleep shades, as he uses his cane to explore the environment he finds himself. Is this a drop off? Next he discovers a vertical pole, and concludes that this structure might be the up right to the hand rail. The blind person with his cane at his side says, “What do you think?” Aren’t these words echoed in this article?

My assumption concerning these people sitting at the table is this. The man sewing, and the woman who has no idea how to mark her medication are both vocational counselors. There blind abilities aren’t as savvy as the others sitting at the table.

The woman who asked what do you think you could do. The man sewing I feel are both rehabilitation teachers. This man sewing, his expertise might not need the skill to sew, his knowledge lies in a different direction. I concluded this because of the Braille tag he was able to read so easily.

The woman who made and read her Braille label, I have mixed thoughts about. Is she a rehabilitation teacher, or a vocational counselor? I am leaning towards a vocational counselor.

Most instructors of the blind have Braille abilities. Vocational counselors might and might not have these skills or for that matter any blind abilities.

I feel in this below segment of the article we were exposed to enlighten us to the professions of these people.

“Ah--- need to cut this piece smaller.” Spoke up the first person at the table of six.

“Yeah, cutting takes some concentration, but hay ---“ responded a table-mate, “I suppose I struggled with it back when I was five with my vision and got it then, so I’ll get it now.”

A third person said, “I came into this knowing the first part of this training was going to be stressful. But I know it will smooth out.”

A fourth table-mate volunteered, “Giving up your sight for a full two weeks, from wakeup to lights-out, no peeking, and proving to myself that I can function non-visually, is going to give me some incites that I’d never have without this opportunity.”

“You know,” contributed a fifth table-mate, “I tried talking my rehab agency into requiring new staff go through 3 to 6 months of sleep-shade training like some services for the blind do, but, to no avail. And so when I heard of this two week training for rehab professionals, I jumped on it.”

“It’s the method of training, the structuring of the learning situation and the insistence on self-discovery, making you work and work at it until you make it yours, is the part I’m soaking up. These instructors are tough on it --- but hey, guess the results will be in the expectations.” Concluded the sixth.

The conclusion I formulated is that the blind just can’t have just one area that he excels in. For the blind to function, and to be competitive with the sighted public all skills are needed.

Peter Poliey, published author, and poet.

**25. I am a sighted Voc Rehab counselor serving the blind. I have not had the opportunity for this sort of training. I know it is out there, not here where I am employed. From the beginning of my employment, of ten years, I have always strivento understand my consumers feelings and methods. Where I find the new-be blind person I find the feelings are in the early stages of getting over the shock and hurt of blindness and needing further development and I help to take them through it. And in regard to blindness methods, I find that each consumer is different, as they were in regard to their feelings too, and I know here too they need to be brought along further. And to help myself to help my consumer, I have tried to put myself in their skin and their shoes. And yes, I know by my temperary blinding of myself is only a pretend reality. And what I would like to experience is at least a two week opportunity of every waking hour to be sightless and totally dependant upon my ability and not only having to face it, but to have experienced professionals there to aid in this experiment. This is who I am, this guide to the newly blind and I want to be my best for them.

The unknown VR Counselor<.>

**26. I am totally with this concept of debunking the difficulty of learning to be blind. I mean, getting around and caring for yourself and going to school and going to work and not having eye sight and doing everything blind is not the hard part about being blind. I think most people, anywhere in the world can learn to live blind. The hard part about all this condition of blindness is how people react to it. This is why giving professionals who are seeking knowledge about blindness and especially a professional who is wanting to test themselves and are really trying to prove themselves that they can do it, blind. I believe I wonce read MR. Newman say that the way to change the world's attitude about blindness was to put everyone in the world under blindfolds for a long enough time to get them to see the light of their own ability to function blind and then we'd finally have acceptance of blindness as an unfortunate, but acceptable status in life.

Mick MCBride

**27. You are doing such a grate job! I work with some Seniors and some clients that not been blind or visually impaired that long. I hope you write a book someday. Keep what you do! Your still the best! Myra

**28. As a person with partial vision who has undergone extensive sleep-shade training, I know that sleep-shade training is the most effective and powerful training device for teaching the skills and positive attitudes of blindness. Initially, I did have the feelings of anxiety and hesitancy towards the sleep-shade training, but I soon learned that it was not the sleep-shades that frightened me, but my own fears about blindness. I have Retinitis Pigmentosa, and as my RP fellows understand, I live in this gray area between being sighted and being blind. I can see some things and not see others; I can see sometimes and sometimes not. The beauty of going through the sleep-shade training and learning Braille, computer technology, and white cane travel, I can use both the alternative skills of blindness and the remaining sight I have to be as efficient and independent as I wish to be. For example, I can possibly see where the restroom doors are in a restaurant, but I most likely won't be able to read the signs, so i can use Braille to read which door is which. At work, I use a CCTV to quickly skim through paperwork, but I label my file folders with Braille and I read memos and other longer documents with Kurzweil. I can see during the day well enough to not use a cane, but I cannot always see stairs, poles, small children and other objects, so I use a long white cane for that extra safety for others and myself. Also, as people with RP know, when i walk my dog late at night, or go into a movie theatre, or a dark restaurant, I rely on my cane to travel independently. I resort back to the alternative skills of blindness when it is most efficient to do so, which as my RP progresses becomes more and more often each year. Yes, initially sleep-shade training may be considered nerve-racking and scary, but it gets better over time as the trainee gains more and more confidence with each success. I know that the training I receied has positively changed my life, and I am grateful that I was offered and that I took the opportunity to train at an earlier age so that I have the alternative skills of blindness to use as my vision becomes more and more unreliable.

Ross Pollpeter Omaha, Nebraska

**29. The thoughts of the people that have answered the questions and have others answered them by asking more questions have opened yet another file for your computer. Not all blind or partially blind people can be put into the same file . Rehabilitation / vocation counselors are the same. Because one person can do one thing well ,is another person subject to the same rule,No. For that reason I feel that the book on being blind has more chapters than one could read in his or her own life time, yet the stories go on . Being blind for only 11 months as given me a hole new look at blindness. Threw the mentoring of yourself and others have opened and closed doors that at first I thought could never again become reality. Yet through my eyes I see nothing , I would hope and pray that people that now have there sight could take a walk in my shoes but just for a while and not see what I have felt ,smelled, touched, tasted , est.. Though I feel that night shades gives then a sense of what they will have to be able to teach others that can't remove there night shades, it gives then some knowledge to hear pass the words and silent cries for help. I an a file that is full of information and yet has anyone been willing to open and find out what this file holes. ,I feel the answer has not yet been found. And others that have filled my shoes and walked that mile are possibly feeling the same. Because of the 56 years that I have been given by my Father in heaven the sight that has been taken away from me just for this short while, some look at me and wonder if I am really blind because of the things that I have taken and done on my own. I am one that even though my eyes don't see hasn't kept me from trying, but have open other doors and ideas that have given me back some of the life that I dearly hoped for. Yes, I have fallen on my face, walked into walls, missed steps and fallen on my butt, yet through my failures. God has open other doors when some doors have been closed to me.
My wish is that the people who hear and feel the words that I have said , use them to adapt, them to each one they touch but yet use them as another door, to help others find there callings and give them the love and guidance that you and others have given me. To help them to find that there is life and light at the end of that darkness that surrounds them. And the peace that only God can help you to find in yourself. There is but one question that each one of us should ask our self, What else can I do to help you to find your calling and not only ask but to get in there and get your hands dirty and help those that can't help themselves. You give a man a fish, you feed him. You teach him to fish, you give him the ability to help himself and teach others. Rehab. / vocation councilors , have been given the jobs of Angels and I wish you the wisdom and knowledge to help those you touch each day. May God Bless you and keep you !

Mark Alexander Nebraska

**30. I'm assuming that the Structured Discovery method is what's outlined in the narrative. If so, I think that such a training program is good. Once a basic blindness survival skills training program has been established for the rehab counselors and teachers to undergo. I think that there should also be an advanced one in which these trainees are traveling on buses, cabs, subways, etc. If the use of adaptive computer equipment--speech and/or braille--wasn't introduced in the basic survival skills training, then training on adaptive equipment would also be introduced. Accompanied with these training programs, the trainees should be required to do an audio journal of their daily experiences--their raw feelings and thoughts regardless of whether they're good or bad. Depending on the level of training they're at, the journal could be recorded or typed on the computer. Journaling makes one reflect on themselves as a sighted person in the world of blindness. The personal training accompanied with personal reflection can also make one see things from a different angle than they otherwise would have.
As for labeling prescription bottles, I use braille labels. If there are many prescriptions and/or not enough room to write such information as dosages and instructions on the bottles, then I either write the information on a card and attach it to the bottles, or each bottle is given a number with a key sheet containing the number on the bottle, the name of the medicine, dosage, and instructions. Such an example migh tbe, (1) = Prevacid, (2) = Januvia, etc. Not only does this method make it easier to keep track of your prescriptions or what has to be refilled, but you don't have to always rely on some kind of talking bar code machine that may, one day, start to malfunction.

Linda. MN

**31. Perhaps I am the odd duck here because I thought it was a given that VR counselors and
instructors of blind skills went through a certain period of training. Many should feel lucky
because in Iowa the Iowa Department for the Blind puts counselors and teachers through 6 months of sleep shade training and every other employee from receptionist to maintenance staff must do at least a month of sleep shade training while having to carry a long, white cane at all times even when not in sleep shades. Apparently this is not the norm.

As I trained in Iowa let me explain my experience of learning in an environment where every single individual walked in my shoes. No one believed me incapable. I was not in danger nor was I a victim. I was allowed to figure things out and explore without constant interference. I was around people, sighted and blind, who understood that sight was not always more efficient. In a nutshell, it was realized that I was normal and all understood this. It does not take psychological understanding to realize that the blind can and do function independently and often without sight.
Let me also point out that I have never not accepted my blindness, but I can not accept societies views and perceptions of me including other blind people. How many walls do I have to bang my head into?
Yes we are all unique and some may learn at different paces, but the Structured Discovery method can apply to any student in any situation. If one does not understand this concept then one has never truly attempted to understand it.

for not teaching those with partial vision how to function as a totally blind person, well, let me give some examples. A dear friend of mine refused to learn JAWS and would rather use ZoomText and struggle through large print. We are both students and never once have I, in 3 years, had to use double time to take an exam while said friend barely finishes with their allotted double time. So what is more efficient?

Two friends sit at a diner. One has partial vision and does not know Braille, and the other is quick with Braille even though they are a partial as well. The one who does not know Braille can not read the menu because it is not large print and they do not have magnification. The other partial, with ease, flips through the menu deciding what to order. What is more efficient?

Two blind friends decide to get together. One is a white cane
user while one uses no discernable mode of travel. It is dark and both will not be able to see, but the cane user walks about independently with ease, not afraid of bumping into objects or falling
down stairs because they know that using the white cane properly provides the necessary information lacking visually. The non-cane user suddenly finds that movement is constrained and they do not move as freely or confidently. What is more efficient?
And how does one teach another to use sight? We really need to be instructed in low vision?
Really? And how does low vision, so called techniques, help one cross a street or navigate a space when they do not always see all objects or see at a distance? Who is more efficient and safer here?

I could go on and on with these true stories, but you get my point. Society has this wrong idea that sight is superior and that alternative techniques are not as quick or efficient as sight. 99% of the
time this is false. Again, if one does not understand this then one has not truly attempted to use, learn and understand this concept.
As long as vision loss is viewed as a death society will never progress. Refusing to accept what is currently the way to true independence for blind people will only hold us back. Instead of sitting in the dark and giving into the idea that blindness must limit one, why not move forward and break free of the mold that society has casted for us?
On an end note, I find it interesting that certain consumer groups push merely for acceptance while others push for freedom and independence.

Bridgit Pollpeter Nebraska

...FROM ME: Most professionals within the field of blindness have not had the opportunity for this type of training. Very few state or private services have their new staff go through months of learning blindness skills. And I do not believe there have been workshops out there, training opportunities outlined in this TP for staff to be sent to.

**32. I think it has its merits. When I try to explain my vision loss to someone, I actually simulate the experience by using tools. I ask the person to tape a paper towel tube to one eye and waxed paper over the other eye. Then, I have the person try to do things, like walk across a room, try to pick something off of the floor or thread a sewing needle. After their trial in my world, they are often quite eager to have their own vision restored. They have a better understanding of what I experience daily and how other blind/vi persons cope with and manage their environment. Also, I find, they have a deeper respect and appreciation for their own eyesight.

Virginia Sblendorio Barnegat, NJ

**33. I hesitated to write on this one because it seemed a propaganda piece for the use of sleep shades. It doesn't take in to account the emotional aspects of sudden vision loss, the differences between a person born without vision and one who may have additional issues such as hearing loss, arthritis, diabetic neuropathy which has also dulled the sense of touch etc. I don't think an instructor trained in this way would understand the needs of a person who is filled with anger, despair, frustration or fear. It takes time and patience to reach someone with a boatload of other problems besides simple lack of vision. Anyone can manage when there is a blackout if they keep their head, but when that blackout is never going away, it requires more in-depth empathy and creative thinking to reach them. Techniques are okay, even necessary, but the student has to believe he can do it, desire to do it and just plain practice any new skill.

DeAnna Quietwater MO

**34. Let me start by saying that I am a hundred percent in favor of proper non-visual training for sighted people who want to work in the blindness business. Even appropriate blindfold training geared toward a successful outcome for sighted family members is alright as long as it is a long enough time period where you can do more than just make the sighted person afraid of blindness. Any training less than two hours with a successful outcome is a waste of time as it only makes the sighted person believe that blindness is as bad as they thought it was in the first place.

You know Robert, your staff trainees are way too positive and cheerful. In real life, half of these people would be griping and grouching. I have had immersion students, what we call staff trainees, who were positive, saw the point and even when frustrated at the new skills they were trying to learn, understood the importance. I’ve also had many who hated the whole program, didn’t see any point in it and served as negative role models for students. Sometimes these folks take the negative experiences back to their field offices and parley that philosophy into an unwillingness to send consumers to a center for training. When done so carefully, immersion training can weed out people who shouldn’t be in this line of work. I had a young VRC who complained about having to go out in the rain and sludge. She whined the whole time. I asked her how she was going to get to work if she couldn’t get out in the sludge. Her response was that she drove here today. I wondered if this was what she was going to do for her consumers. Her field supervisor, a woman of our mutual acquaintance, came to observe the staff trainee’s progress and helped redirect her into a line of work outside of rehabilitation.

I’ve had lots of sighted people come back to me over the years and say how rewarding the training was because it made them better teachers and counselors to know what alternative techniques are available and how normal we blind folks really are. I had one who came to Lincoln with absolutely no preconceived notions of blindness as a negative because the one blind person she knew was a Braille reading, cane traveling, successfully employed pastor who did everything her other ministers had done. You can stick your head out of your office and tell that staff trainee hello from me.

I’ve had whiners and complainers who blossomed into very fine teachers and counselors because the immersion training gave them a perspective they had never had before. I’m very proud to call those individuals colleague.

One warning. I have heard people in a position to train sighted people in sleep shades say that an activity would give them an idea of what it is like to be really blind. This is dangerous because the people in training will take their words at face value. We do it so the staff trainee will know how blind people live, work and perform ordinary activities with alternative techniques. You can no more know what it is like to be blind from wearing sleep shades or bandages in public than you can know what it is like to be a racial minority by hanging around with members all week. Sighted trainees often express amazement at how often members of the public will grab them from out of nowhere and how insistent they are to help them but they don’t know what it is like to be blind. Until they are refused a job, an apartment or admission into a university program on the grounds of blindness, or until they are manhandled like that for a lifetime instead of a four hour class at a shopping mall, it is naive of the trainers and offensive to real blind people to say the staff trainees know anything about what it is like to be blind. Instructors need to call it what it is. It’s about how blind people get to be normal, not about what it is like to be blind.

Thanks for doing this one Robert but don’t be afraid to include the whiners in your scenarios. Grin. Why people are negative during training can be a good discussion point too.

The real Jane Lansaw TX