Sleep Shades And Blindness


Sleep Shades And Blindness

     At the window the office worker pointed out the two pedestrians to her fellow workers. From their birds-eye view they watched the young man and woman arcing their long white canes as they approached a busy lighted intersection.

     “What are they wearing on their faces?” One of the newcomers asked.

      “They are students from the blind center. I asked them the same question a couple of days ago, it’s a sleep shade.” The first worker answered.

     The female student was first to find the downward slant of a wheelchair ramp. She spoke over her shoulder to her companion.

     The male student explored the feature with his cane, his foot, lifted his shades and peered around.

     The two of them stood on the corner, obviously examining, discussing what they were confronting and needing to do. First they faced the north-south flow, then pointed over to the standing east-west lanes. With the changing of the light and the traffic pattern, they talked, listened and had further discussion.

     With the next change of the light the female student stepped out and began her crossing. The guy again lifted up his shades, replaced them and hurried to catch up with his female partner.

     “What is the object? What are they learning?” Asked the second newcomer.

e-mail responses to

**1. “The object, I believe, is that they're learning to travel without sight. As
for what they're learning, I would venture to say that--barring the notion
that they are conspiring concerning the male's lifting his shades and then
discussing with her what he visually sees--the female student probably
really is learning to travel without sight, while the male is short-changing
himself by allowing his insecurity to prompt him to lift the shades and look
around. I suppose another outlook might suggest that he is confirming, or
trying to, what his other senses have already shown him. But my experience
with people learning to travel with the use of shades is that the more
confident you feel about travelling without sight the less likely you are to
lift the shades. It's equally true that those who want to learn with the
use of shades are more likely to acknowledge inadvertent lifting of shades
and will really try to work at not doing it.

If the male is observing the confidence of the female, particularly if he
knows she's not lifting her shades, he may be learning that the system works
for someone else, and may eventually be willing to trust himself with it.”

Barbara Walker (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, )

**2. “Oh brother, this one is just a little too close to home. It's rather clear
that the young woman has begun to recognize that non-visual alternatives
really do work, or at least she is willing to give them an honest chance.
The fellow either hasn't been at it long enough to begin to realize this, or
he may be of the mind set that will never allow him to reach this
conclusion. The folks in the window have good reason to be confused, our
society does not prepare most folks for this sort of thing, and since the
one student is lifting the shades, of course it is hard to figure out what
the point is. Clearly the male student hasn't gotten the point either.
Unfortunately a lot of blind folks themselves, along with professionals in the
field, and groups claiming to represent the "visually impaired" don't get
the point either.

I have a nephew who is also blind, and he lives in New Jersey. He went
through one of those training programs where they believe that you should
maximize the use of your available vision, so he was taught to use the cane,
but never under the sleep-shades. I expressed serious concerns about this
approach at the time, but he either wasn't able to convince his instructor
that he should be using the sleep-shades, or he just wasn't ready at that
point in his life to press the issue. Well in any case, he went on to find
employment as a computer programmer in Philadelphia, and moved out on his own
in Lyndenwald New Jersey. Each day taking the PATCO high speed line in to
Center City where he catches the "L" to his job. One morning while rushing
to catch his train in Lyndenwald he was walking parallel along a train and
spotted an opening he believed to be the open door to the train. He stepped
from the platform, without properly checking with the cane to confirm his
location. It wasn't the door, it was a space between two trains. He fell to
the rails below. He struck the back of his head on one of the rails, and
just missed coming in contact with the 14000 volt third rail. He was
knocked out from the fall. As he lay there, one of the trains pulled out,
and a few minutes the second one was preparing to leave. At this point
someone was walking by, and saw his foot sticking out, and stopped the train
from moving forward. They got him out of there, with a serious concussion,
bruised and bleeding. He just wasn't depending on the cane when he should
have been, the guy in your story lifting his shades may not end up as lucky
as my nephew. By the way my nephew is now a travel mentor in New Jersey, he
is in the local NFB chapter, and he received some training from Doug Boone
to do this, he has learned what he should have been taught by the
professional giving him the travel instruction long before he had to nearly
get killed.”

Jeff Altman (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)

**3. “The concept of sighted people wearing sleep shades to see what it is like
to be blind is very stupid. I don't think it should be tried at a busy
intersection. A blind person naturally develops the sense of hearing more
and hasn't got the advantage of "taking a sneak look"”

The people in the office would be less likely to help a real blind person
who in this or another situation could be in real danger. The male in your
story wasn't getting the benefit of the exercise, and the female must have
known that he was cheating.”

Jann Rutherford (Sydney Australia, )

FROM ME: “After reading Jann’s response I re-read my Provoker and decided to add more detail as to the characteristics of the students. This update has that addition. A copy of the sentence I altered follows- “They are students from the blind center; one is partially blind from birth and the other is slowly losing vision.”
Working in a rehab setting where we/I have students out each day learning travel skills, my mind-set had these two as being partially sighted., but I can see how it could be taken differently. If any of you who have responded to the first version feel you need to write in again, do so; a second response is good or if you wish me to totally change your first, I’ll do it.”

**4. “This topic is very interesting to me. I believe that blind people should
learn good cane travel skills. On the surface, the observer might think
that cane travel was all these students were learning. But, I believe,
more importantly, they were learning to trust the skills they had been
taught. They were learning to trust the alternative techniques of
blindness and not rely on the vision they had; no matter how much or
little it might have been. The woman seemed to have grasped the concept
and trusted that she could travel safely and successfully as a blind
person. On the other hand, the male student wasn't comfortable without
using the vision he still had. He didn't trust that he could be safe
without seeing where he was, so he lifted his sleep shade to assess his
surroundings, before hurrying across the street. He may have been a
competent cane traveler, but he wasn't sure of himself as a blind person.”

Cynthia Handel

**5. “This is very typical of sighted people learning the ways of the non-sighted.
I have been in on many sessions of beginning mobility instructors and have
seen the cheating glances and the blindfolds or sleepshades adjusted in such
a way that they have some vision, it is not until they learn more that they
will know they can navigate without sight. But in the beginning they do not
trust themselves when they have lost vision, Unlike so many of us they do
not have the choice of taken furtive glances.
I have thought at first that this should not happen, that someone should
make them abide by the rules. But then I also think about what a visually
impaired person does, they take advantage of every opportunity to get back
out into the world, so why should a student be forced into abiding by strict
enforcement, maybe if they learn to take advantage of momentary glances,
they can better teach the visually impaired to take advantage of any
opportunity they can.”

Mike Wardin (Columbia, Missouri, USA)

**6. “Now this is an interesting story. Are these pedestrians sighted people who
are in training to become mobility instructors or partially sighted clients
at a rehabilitation center who are completing a mobility instructor's
assignment while blindfolded?

I spent some time in a rehabilitation center years ago where I was asked to
perform such tasks such as sorting money while wearing a blindfold. I
could never understand why I had to do this since I have some vision and my
vision has been stable throughout my life and is expected to remain that way.

Fortunately, I was never asked to wear a blindfold during mobility
training. It seems to me that partially sighted people, especially if
their vision is stable, should be encouraged to use what vision they have.”

Abbie Johnson (Sheridan, Wyoming, USA, )

FROM ME: “Which partially sighted person do we ask to learn non-visual techniques? Why?”

**7. “ It is obvious to me in this short story that the young man who is wearing
the sleep shades is less than serious about his training. By Lifting his
shades he is really not " acting " as a blind person. How many of us can "
lift our shades"? If this person, the young man, is going to be a mobility
trainer I would not want him working with me. We put our lives in the hands
of others who are paid well for their services, as in training. So lets
take the ladies services instead of the young mans. In closing I do
appreciate a forum such as this in which we can voice an opinion and speak
freely. Thanks. “

Lee a. stone (Hudson, New York email" )

**8. “You're a glutton for punishment. This is one of the most heated
issues you can pick. I'll be interested to see what you pick. I'm going
to sit on my post for a while, though, because my view is that of a
person who went through gradual vision loss and not a professional. You
are very brave in bringing this one up. J”

Sarah J. Blake
(Web site:
Email: )

**9. “ This is an issue that I've struggled with for such a long time because
I thought I could use what vision I had. Like many other partials, I felt
that I could make it on the vision I have. What finally convinced me that
I need to try using the sleep shades {with ANY good travel instructor}. My
sister went through the training center in Lincoln, Nebraska and after
watching her frustrations with the sleep shades, we both decided that it
wouldn't be a bad thing for me either.
When I get the opportunity, I'll give it a try. I'm no longer opposed
to the use of sleep shades.”

Bonnie Ainsworth (NFBtalk list, Laramie, Wyoming, USA, (

**10. “I must say that I have struggled with this one. I was made to wear sleep
shades at the rehab program that I attended. I didn't see the sense then,
but I did a few years later when I lost my remaining vision. Perhaps the
couple in the story were sighted participants in some kind of sensitivity
exercise, or were O. and M. instructor trainees.”

Andy Baracco (NFBtalk list)

**11. “Having been to the Center in Lincoln, the object of what the two are
supposed to be doing is learning proper cane techniques and how to get
around using their other senses. From the story above, I would have to say
that the female has probably been at the Center longer and has had more
experience with crossing busy streets. I would also have to say that the
male is fairly new and is not yet sure of himself when it comes to relying
on hearing and his other senses to get around. Unfortunately the peeking
will get him into trouble and he won't learn to use his hearing and other
senses as quickly.

I hated the sleep shades, but they did help in the training and in
developing a sense of direction. It also gives you a feel for traffic,
buildings, alcoves and the like.

Rhonda Sampley (Omaha, Nebraska, USA)

**12. “In reading this thought Provoker, I feel this all too familiar to me. I was
a student at the Nebraska Orientation Center for the Blind for 7 months and
discovered that the sleep shades were not a punishment, rather they were a
tool for me to learn alternative techniques and not rely on what little
usable vision I have. I thought that when I first started my training, the
sleep shades would be a hindrance, but in more ways than one they were a
big help to me! I was able to build my self-confidence and skills in so
many things...everything that is offered there. I had a lot of skills when
I arrived at the Center, but felt that they could use some brushing up.
Braille, computers, and travel were my strengths, but felt a little weak in
the home making area and wood shop. Even though I dreaded shop class, I
did learn something out of it...and that was problem solving-skills.
Another example is, travel gave me the chance to broaden my sense of
direction and orientation. In Braille, I brushed up on my reading speed and
then ended up helping teach for our instructor. Finally, in computers I
learned the basics with Jaws and then after 3 weeks said that I was
confident and didn't need that class because I felt I could explore and
teach myself. My thought is that, there are similarities in the versions of
a program and once you have learned one, you can pretty much learn from that
point most cases. With giving that explanation, I can now tell you
my feelings on the sleep shades. Many people get frustrated with them, but
really if you take each day one at a time and concentrate you will master
it. The sleep shades are not to punish you in any way, they are a tool to
help you learn. I always told myself, the training will get easier as time
goes on...and it is the truth.
God Bless”

Carla Kay Laesch (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, )

**13. “This short story would seem straight-forward enough. Here we have two
travelers under sleepshades. One is cheating and one is not. But if we
look at the underlying issues here, we might find a debate on sleepshades
and their usefulness for training blind and visually impaired persons for
traveling. When I was a small boy, I too used the sleepshades because I
had some light perception in my left eye. I also had a habit of peering
out from underneath the shades when I thought my instructor wasn't
looking. Now, here I am at 24 with no sight at all and I discover that I
have no way of "peeking" anymore. Many others will find themselves in
this situation. When people are first starting out under the shades, it
is easy to understand why they are tempted to peek under them at times.
Whether you are an adult or a child, the element of fear can cause you to
reflexively try and use your sight when you are in unfamiliar
surroundings. But doing this will not teach you the alternative skills
that are necessary to stay mobile when and if that time comes when your
remaining vision fades.”

Ryan Osentowski (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)

**14. “We make extensive use of the sleep shades at the Colorado Center, and find that those with residual vision do much better, if they use them consistently. Lifting them up, however, defeats part of their purpose. We get some comments from the public, but most never seem to notice. As do, I believe, most NFB centers, and programs with a rooting in our philosophy, they are not just limited to travel.”

Dave Hyde (NFBtalk list, Colorado Denver, USA)

**15. “Thank you very much! I plan on printing and passing that on to my
son’s teacher, maybe we can gain some more headway with her. Since we tend to but-heads about a lot of issues.”

Christine (Blindfam list)

**16. "What are they learning? What's the point?" the woman asks.

GOOD QUESTION! Having been through such a course at the Orientation
Center for the Blind in Albany California, I have to say I also wonder.
Being nearly blind, but still relying on what's left of my senses and a
good guide dog, I found that the sleepshade dulled my facial vision,
took all my attention and was a dreadful distraction. I cannot remember
the exact directions on how to cross the street, but I DO remember how
uncomfortable that shade was. It is like trying to learn with a
clothespin clipped to your...ear. (smile) I tried to get them to
accept me using a pair of sufficiently blacked out dark glasses which
would not put pressure on my face, or an eye-patch since I have only one
eye that functions. No way. They insisted on that mask. It hampered my
learning and slowed it down.

The temptation to cheat and look under the edge of the mask was
difficult not to obey. Even the faint shadows that might have been
visible would have kept me IN the world instead of floating in space. I
was disoriented and dealing with that disorientation while still trying
to LEARN new tasks and the effort was well nigh beyond me.”

Sylvia Stevens (USA)

FROM ME: “Is there anyone out there using something other than a sleep shade? The lady makes a good point. If the sleep shade gets in the way or is uncomfortable, what else may be used to block vision?”

17. “There can be a number of answers to this question.
They might be student teachers learning to be O&M
instructors. Or both might have a little vision and
are learning O&M blindfolded (as my husband Bob
chose to do). If they are learning to go
blindfolded, then he might be cheating. If so, the
male won't learn as quickly as the female, who keeps
her blindfold on. I have to wonder if the male
would ever learn to trust a guide dog, if he doesn't
trust a cane and/or his own senses. I may be way out
in left field about this, but I don't think he's
learning much.”

Carolyn (Rplist, Clearwater, Florida, USA)

**18. “When you speak of "travel instructors", I assume you are talking of what we
here call mobility instructors. I know that, during their training, mobility
instructors are blindfolded to teach them to use their other senses, so that
they could be better equipped to train blind people, as they could then
transfer this sensory information without having to fall back on visual
landmarks or missing such clues as the smell of a shop or the sound of a
post office, etc.”

Christo de Clerk (Alberton, South Africa)

**19. “The object appears to be learning cane travel without using residual sight.
The guy hasn't gotten comfortable with that idea yet and appears quite new to
the situations. The woman appears to be taking the lead, locating the ramp
first, etc. At least, from the guy's hesitancy and the woman's confidence, I
presume we're seeing a skilled student and an unskilled student paired

Brett Crow (USA, )

**20. “Sylvia here again. One more comment on the sleepshade. I mentioned that I
tried to get the school to try me with blacked out lenses (the glasses I
showed them were very close fitting and had side pieces which completely
obscured light. the lenses were coated with tape inside, and black enamel
paint) or an eye patch. I had the instructor wear the blacked out glasses and
he, too, agreed that they occluded light sufficiently that they would have
worked. STILL he insisted on the shade. I do understand the use of the
sleepshade and I totally agree with the motives. They are sound, good and
effective. However, the sleepshade may not be the best alternative for all.
Other methods must be at least considered.

Obscuration of facial vision was a major objection, but not all of it. The
other objection that I had, and STILL have, is the stupidity factor. I'm
sorry, but a person tapping their way down a busy street in dark glasses or
an eye patch or a bandage, looks blind, but normally blind. A person doing
the same in a sleepshade looks like a mental case, a masochist looking for
a lamppost to whack himself with, or a college hazing ritual. It is (and I
will not mince words here) publicly humiliating. I am NOT ashamed to be
visually impaired. I am proud and independent with my dog and my cane. But
that shade made a laughing stock of me. I heard whispers on the bus that I
had NEVER heard with my dog or my cane. I had one man try to take the shade
off me and had a lady on a bus tell me "You're being foolish!". I was
dealing with the fright and disorientation of having my face covered and I
was emotionally vulnerable. Had I had a patch or glasses, I think I would
have been less conspicuous and I could have handled it FAR better.

In ALL my other classes, where I was not in public, I had hassles with
spatial orientation and dizziness (whether from the blackness or the
pressure from the straps, I don't know) but I did not have the panic. I
traveled the halls of the school with ease, the campus... because everyone
understood the mask and its necessity. It was in public that I suffered. I
am not being melodramatic, it was emotional distress on top of the physical

I STRONGLY urge that some alternative, less obvious light-blocking method
be used.”

Sylvia Stevens (San Francisco, California, USA)

**21. “I don't know if my response will get through. I usually just read the
responses that come in, but as everyone has mentioned, this is a pretty
heated topic. I could not leave this one alone.

My uncle who I greatly admire and miss, as he passed away in April,
experienced a visual impairment. He had an artificial eye and then was
20/200 in the other. He was trained to be a computer programmer, but never
to use a cane.

As my uncle aged, he began to experience more difficulty with his vision.
As most of us, he start feeling and noticing this aging process in his late
30's, early 40's.
Of course, when we age, the weakest part of our bodies experience it first.
For most people with disease or injury (even congenital injury) to their
eyes; they experience age related vision loss earlier. With these other
complications, these people often are not good candidates for surgery.

My uncle, as well as many of the clients I see as a counselor now, are
rendered incapable from this aging process. These people then have to
scramble to save their jobs, their social lives, their independence at
home...... In my uncle's case; this hardship ended in the divorce of he
and his wife.

The purpose for using sleepshades in any case of training - for sighted or
partially sighted individuals - should be only to give the individuals
confidence in non-visual alternatives. Partially sighted individuals may
find that non-visual techniques are more effective in some situations and
can combine the use of both non-visual and visual techniques. The very
least a partially sighted person would learn is: if I can do this with no
sight; I can certainly do this, and I am not going to give up.

Had my uncle had the knowledge of non-visual techniques; he would not have
had to scramble and fear the loss of independence, job and home all over
again. He would have just begun relying more heavily on the non-visual, and
less on the visual, and gone right on with his life.

I guess I have my uncle to thank for my career choice. And with that, I
dedicate the work I do to him.”

Linda Chilcott, (Omaha, Nebraska, USA)

FROM ME: “How many stories have we all heard about an individual who has lost it all when it became difficult to function at work, home and play. Have any of you heard this one- the learning of alternatives is the difference between being an inferior sighted person verses being a competent blind person.”

**22. “Here is my response to the sleepshade thought provoker. It might be
controversial. Oh well.

When I was young, I heard about people being forced to use sleepshades to
learn to travel and assumed this would happen to me. I dreaded it since
I do not like mask-type things on my face and was afraid of the dark. I
could see light, dark and colors in the right eye and nothing in the
left. I had glaucoma and was told at a very young age that due to the
pressure in my right eye, the eye would become larger and larger and
might rupture. It could happen any time. This was really scary to me as
a kid.

My "vision" did gradually deteriorate, which was most noticeable at age
thirteen. If any agency people had forced me to suddenly use completely
dark sleepshades, I would have been frightened and probably not very
cooperative even though the "vision" I had was not all that usable. It
would have been a matter of principle for me. If they started out with
something very opaque and worked up to the black ones gradually, I might
have been okay. I'm just not good at the all or nothing, everybody do it
the same way, kind of approach. I also feel that many rehab people assume
that the fear of sleepshades comes from being afraid of blindness when
for many people it is fear of the dark and of masks that pose some of the

Luckily agency people never did the sleepshade thing on me since I had so
little usable vision. I had three pairs of sunglasses from much light
coming in to dark gray with very little light coming in. I worked from
the light ones to the dark ones and then borrowed sleepshades from the
agency. I got around just the same with the sleepshades on, but my
working up to them helped me deal with fear of the dark and fear of a
mask. I didn't have to wear them very long.

When the time came that I chose to have the right eye enucleated, I knew
that I could still function okay. After talking to Hank Vetter, who
explained to me that being without light perception was not the same as
being in the dark, I calmed down. After the surgery, the hospital staff
did not want me to get out of bed to move around by myself and insisted
on having someone there to help me eat. I told them I had always been
blind and functioned that way and would be fine. The only thing that
startled me at this time was that I sat in a chair near the window and
couldn't figure out where the heat was coming from, since it was not
coming from a heater (the surgery was done in the summer). Finally I
realized it was the sunshine warming my chair.

I do not know what to say about the couple in the story except that it
seems to me that cheating in any area doesn't help in the long run. I am
very thankful that I was not "agencied" in this matter but had and gave
myself the opportunity to make the changes in my own way which worked
best for me. I hope some day agencies for the blind will realize that
they are working with individuals whose needs may not all be the same;
therefore the training could be individualized without students being
cheated or cheating themselves in learning what they really need to know
to get by well in this world.”

Laurie Merryfield (Renton, Washington, USA)

FROM ME: “Notice Laurie mention of Hank, a blind friend. His “peer counseling” is what made it work for her.”

**23. “I did read this particular provoker, and the thought I had was that the
person who kept lifting his sleep shades would not benefit from mobility
training because he would never trust it.

Can't recall if I told you about Ari. He was blind, and imprisoned for bank
robbery. They caught him when he stole a car for the getaway, and presumably
couldn't see well enough to drive it properly, so crashed it into an abutment.

Anyway, Ari was imprisoned in New York, so Dr. Jernigan sent us his letter,
and I began a correspondence with him. He was imprisoned in a "Sensory
challenged unit" along with people who were deaf, or retarded, or had various
other handicaps. Ari couldn't believe what my letters said about blindness,
so David and Brad (Greenspan) went up to the prison. Brad is blind and a
probation officer. Seems appropriate. David brought some material to read,
and read the Braille aloud to the inmates. None of them could believe he was
so fast. (He reads between three and four hundred words a minute)

When Ari came up for parole, we volunteered to sponsor him, so he came to
live with us for awhile. We helped get him a job and I took him out under
sleep shades and gave him some mobility training so he could take the train
to work. David also took him across our local four lane highway so he would
realize a blind person could, indeed do that.

When the Commission for the Blind finally got around to sending a mobility
instructor, the man came with a short cane (you know the type). Ari was
already using an NFB cane we loaned him, and refused to use the short cane. He told us it was too dangerous, as if you held it out in front of you as you
walked, and the cane encountered an obstacle, the cane would be driven
forcibly into your privates. That made sense to me. But Ed K., the mobility
person, said "If you use the long cane, you can't get mobility from us."
Very funny, Ed. His statement didn't hold up under the barrage of letters we
sent, with copies right up to the head of the Commission. The Commission
changed its policy right after that.

The story has an unhappy ending, but maybe it just goes to show equal
opportunities for blind bank robbers. I had helped Ari open an account at a
local bank so he could cash his paycheck. I didn't expect him to forge a
check and embezzle $12,000 out of the bank!

Before I knew about this, he moved out, moving in with a girlfriend in New
York City. She tossed him after awhile. He'd been in jail for seven years,
which was too long. He didn't know the value of money, and tended to blow
his paycheck the first weekend, though he wouldn't have more for two weeks.
Then he fell back into drugs. We found a packet of coke on our bathroom
windowsill. Since I had children in the house, that was the end of the
relationship. I flushed it away of course.

When the secret service man called me, Ari was already back in jail in the
city for holding someone up on the street. I gave him Ari's prison address,
and he said, "I didn't think it would be so easy." I told him we refused to
help Ari break the law. Apparently he had deliberately done something to get
himself arrested because he didn't believe a blind person could survive out
here. It was easier in prison, where he had talking books and college

Chances are, he's still in prison.”

Lori Stayer (Merrict, New York, USA)

FROM ME: “Guess alternative aren’t always enough!”

**24. “One of the primary uses of the sleepshades in rehabilitation training is to maximize the value of the remaining vision. It may sound a little paradoxical to say that you can learn to maximize your remaining vision by not using it, but experience has taught otherwise. If one has limited vision, there is a choice to be made: do I live within the limits of what my sight can do or do I learn alternatives that will permit me to combine them with the residual vision and they increase the scope of my choices? While there are a few strategies for learning how to utilize residual vision, those strategies by themselves don't give you any options once you reach the outer limits of usefulness. Unless you have acquired confident and competent use of alternatives, you lock yourself into a lifestyle that allows limited vision to define a limited life. Sleepshades are not a magic bullet that guarantees success, but a thoroughgoing immersion in a learning situation normally increases the efficiency of learning and assures greater retention. That strikes me as a pretty good trade-off for the temporary discomfort of blocking residual vision. The same concept of immersion is sometimes used in teaching a foreign language and, to the best of my knowledge, it works pretty well. Over the years at Nebraska Services for the Visually Impaired we heard a great deal of hostility against the use of sleepshades, but this generally reflected anxiety about loss of visual contact with the environment rather than a rational assessment of the value of sleepshades as a training tool.”

James Nyman (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)

FROM ME: “What other skills appear to lend themselves to be best learned via the immersion tactic?”

**25. “I started receiving O&M instruction at the age of 7. Back then, the
consensus was that I had light perception only. However, this many years
later, I and various professionals who have worked with me over the years
realize that I had some extremely usable vision and used it fairly well.
Still, I mastered the cane with no problem. I learned to use it and my
vision in combination. Since my eye condition was considered stable at
the time, the issue of vision loss was never addressed.

That vision loss started occurring in brief periods when I was a teenager.
Even at the school for the blind, no one picked up on what was happening.
The problem was misdiagnosed, and I continued to experience these brief
periods of loss for several years. I tended to travel a bit more slowly
during these times, but I didn't experience much real difficulty. My main
problem was the fear that overwhelmed me when these episodes came on. I
didn't fear a loss of functioning so much as I feared not knowing whether
the loss was temporary or how long it would last.

When I began training with my guide dog, I discussed this with my
instructor. He decided to plan some nighttime instruction for me so that
I would be able to develop more trust in the dog and would have the
confidence to travel both at night and during the periods of vision loss.
I'm afraid I would have found the idea of wearing sleepshades as
terrifying as the temporary vision loss, although I'm not sure why. But
it was perfectly natural for me to travel at night, and since I had no
usable night vision, this filled the need for me very well.

I think it is important for people who are experiencing what will
eventually be a permanent and complete loss of vision to learn to travel
without that vision. For a person who experiences intermittent losses, I
think it is important to provide instruction in a variety of
circumstances. That person needs to know how to cope with whatever phase
of the cycle he is in. Even using alternative techniques, it is
impossible to ignore the input from what is seen. I eventually lived for
a year in that gray fog of vision loss before having surgery to repair
retinal detachment and corneal damage which had contributed to the loss.
Even though I am a good cane traveler, I find myself naturally inclined to
notice and rely on landmarks which I can see or startled by the appearance
of things I had never known were there before.

I do think it is important for professionals to have experienced travel
under the blindfold. I wish it were as possible for them to have such
extensive experience traveling with simulators. This would give a much
more accurate picture of the needs of potential clients, I think.”

Sarah J. Blake (Anderson, Indiana, USA,
Web site:
Email: )

FROM ME: “Working at night where vision is not useful as we see in this case was a common sense alternative approach to using the sleep shade. Any others?”

**26. “Wow! This is a good one. I would have been the one peeking, I'm sure. I
have lost almost all of my sight, and could lose the rest of it at any time.
In my mobility class, I was taught to use what sight I had. Also when I was
in Guide Dog School, they taught me the same. I really feel cheated now
though. I wish I could have been trained blind folded. I am confident with
my dog and my cane, but I do use what sight I have for whatever I can. But
being in the circumstances of losing what sight I have overnight, I fear that
the trust I have now, might not be as confident when I can't see at all.

For my own sake, when I take my dog out for walks, I do try to do it just
with my eyes closed and can feel my insecurities coming out. I think
everyone that has sight loss with a chance to lose more, should be made to
train with shades on. I am planning on having a friend or family member work
with me, so that I can achieve some sort of stability when my sight is gone.

If the man was cheating by peeking, he is doing himself a big injustice, and
doesn't realize it until it's too late. I wish I could have been the brave

Ann Duncan (Missouri, USA )

**27. “First, every blind person should learn alternative techniques using
the shades if they have any remaining vision at all.

For industrial arts, traveling and home economics teachers doing work
with the blind the blindfold is also necessary. They too need to
learn alternative techniques of blindness, and learn to trust those
techniques. Without this skill, how can they adequately expect to
pass on such confidence to their students?

Any less is shortchanging those who expect to be trained.”

Richard Webb (Burlington, Iowa, USA)

**28. “I see others on this list that I know. I was against using the blindfolding method when I learned travel when we all were being trained together. Fighting it like I did I felt I was right, saying things like “Use it or lose it. Or, use what God gave you for as long as you can. And all that.” I was really feeling bad about my vision loss back then. I even felt worse about it when each time I noticed I had lost more vision; losing it like allot of us do, one piece at a time, going blind slow. It was just one big heart ache after another, it was HELL.” I now think it would have been better for me if I had used the blindfold.”

(No name Please)

**29. “I went through the Vets program five times for cane walking. They didn’t push the blindfold much and most of us didn’t use it. Consequently when you lose more vision you need to learn more about the cane and using what vision you have left at the time. I liked the trips, and some of the guys didn’t. Maybe this is another case where the government is foolishly wasting our tax dollars?”

**30. “I have been reading the responses to your latest provoker on sleepshades.
Laurie Merryfield brought out a very interesting point in that some people
do not have a problem with learning the skills of blindness, but may have a
problem with something unrelated to blindness issues, such as fear of the
dark. I am in favor of the basic idea of sleepshade training because it
seems that sleepshades are the best way we have so far to teach people
nonvisual techniques. However, sometimes other fears get in the way of
people learning effectively while under shades. I know from my own
experience that I did not like looking at black all the time. I think a
lot of people would never admit that they were afraid of something or
hesitant about something that wasn't related to blindness, especially if
they were in blindness skills training. Does anyone out there have any
ideas about how a counselor or orientation teacher may approach this type
of problem?”

Cheryl Livingston (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)

**31. “I can relate to the person who had mobility training since she was seven,
and to them thinking of only light perception. They tried to tell my mom I
couldn't see either. as for sleep shades, I can't ever remember having to
use them on a bus, but I can remember using them at my junior high school.
I finally told the mobility teacher I didn't want to do that. I don't know
if doing the sleepshade thing did me any good, but my mobility teacher told
me I should do it in case I lost more vision. My vision is stable. She
relented and I didn't have any more training in that fashion. I use
visual landmarks a lot, but I am very familiar with the touch technique. I
have c.p. Too, and really don't think I did such a good job with traveling
with a sleep shade.”

Dawn Petty (USA)

“this young woman's case brings up yet another question in the use of blocking out vision during training. How about using a sleep shade on some one who is additionally mobility disabled? Like with CP or in a wheelchair or deafness…?”

**32. “This is such a complicated topic that I've avoided getting involved with it,
but I'll try to express myself briefly.

I am an orientation and mobility specialist working with adults. I find
that blindfolding is useful in training, but not at the expense of failing
to teach the person to travel while utilizing everything. When you're
blindfolded, it's easier to notice sounds and the cane but that doesn't mean
you'll notice them when the blindfold is off and you're distracted with

The ultimate skill that I try to teach people is to use the other senses and
cane information AT THE SAME TIME that they're using vision, not exclusively
one or the other. In my experience:

1) Blindfolding doesn't really achieve that ability to combine everything
effectively and 2) it's definitely NOT true that the only way (or even the best way) to
notice and learn to use sounds and the cane and other information is to put
on a blindfold. I know from years of experience that people can very
effectively learn to notice other things while they are not blindfolded. I
find that this is a more effective way to teach it because it's real-life,
it's what they'll be doing after training.

I'll give you just a few examples. Last week I was working with man in his
50's who has had stable vision all his life but never learned to travel
independently. This was his fifth lesson. He approached a door where he
had to find the doorbell. He pressed his face against the door, searched
and searched and couldn't find the button. I then encouraged him to scan it
with his hand. He was very awkward with this because he wasn't accustomed
to using touch, and needed to learn to use his hands to get tactile
information, but after a short time he found it. The next lesson, he
approached the same door. He didn't look at all, he just felt with his hand
and found the button and pushed it. If he had worn a blindfold, he would
have learned how to find things with his hand, but he would NOT have learned
how much more effective touch is than vision because he wouldn't have had an
opportunity to realize how ineffective his vision is there.

About a month ago I was working with a woman who had done quite a bit with
blindfold (straining to use her vision gives her headaches so she really
appreciates being able to do things without looking). On this particular
lesson, she did not have a blindfold and approached a short stairway with
her cane (it was three steps, going up to a raised platform). It was dark,
and the stairs were covered with carpet that matched the rest of the floor.
She bent way down trying to see them. She became frustrated and frightened
because she was not visually able to make out the details. This is usually
upsetting to people who are losing their vision so I was very gentle when I
suggested to her that she could get all the information with the cane, as
she had done before. Even though she had done other stairs blindfolded, she
didn't believe she could get enough information with the cane, so we spent
the next 20 minutes exploring the stairs with her cane and negotiating the
stairs when she couldn't see them well enough. There was even a wire draped
over the stairs which she didn't see and was able to find it with the cane
when using it properly. I know that if she had worn a blindfold for this
experience she would have (again) learned that she can do it without vision,
but she needed to really learn to trust that she can get this information
with the cane when she is able to see, and learn that it's okay if she can't
see enough details, the cane will fill in the rest.
About a year ago a woman with a recent vision loss was walking for the first
time with her cane outside on the sidewalk. At one point, where the shadows
and the shade of the sidewalk made it difficult to see, she became
frightened and disoriented because she couldn't see the sidewalk well enough
at that point to know where to go. I had her listen to the traffic, which
she had been too distracted to notice. It took a few minutes to calm down
enough to notice what I was asking her to notice, but then she heard the car
pass her and stop ahead at the stop sign. She then learned to pay attention
to sounds like traffic AT THE SAME TIME that she is distracted by visual
information (also using the cane information, but this was easy because I
don't have people travel outside until the use of the cane is so automatic
that they don't have to think about it, they incorporate that information
with everything else they are getting)

Of the three clients, only the second one ever used a blindfold and that was
because she was initially so frightened and stressed that I asked her to
shut her eyes while I guided her. We spent a half-hour just walking around
and talking while she relaxed and realized she didn't need to strain and
look. Most people can learn this without a blindfold but, as I said, I feel
there are times that a blindfold is helpful. I just don't believe that
everyone must use it in their training, nor that they should use it
throughout their training. It's very important to COMBINE all the
information including visual information, and also to realize which ways are
most effective for getting which information. This is difficult or
impossible to learn with a blindfold, because one choice for getting that
information -- vision -- isn't possible, so you can't compare and choose how
to get the information.

Well, so much for being "brief"! That's why I didn't even attempt this one,
it's too complicated to explain briefly. Another reason to avoid this issue
is that there seems to be a lot of emotion invested by some O&M specialists
who believe that one way or the other is the only way to do it, and/or they
think the training should be done ALL one way or the other (all with, or all
without the blindfold).”

Dona Sauerburger, COMS (Gambrills, Maryland, USA




**34. “Well, here's my "for what its worth". I went through sleepshade training
over 20 years ago. It sure doesn't seem like it on one hand but, on the
other, hand it seems like centuries ago. So, all that we talked about that
was happening to seems to be happening to me.
No, its not darkness or anything like that. It is an annoying gray fog
which is the result of a thick cornea which holds more fluid than it
should. Yes, it is very frustrating and uncomfortable and even scary at
times but, if not for sleepshade training I wouldn't have the sense of
reasoning that I gained from that training. You see, it isn't any one
physical thing that you learn how to do that makes that training so
valuable. It is the method of working out an alternative solution to the
problem at hand that is what makes the experience so valuable. When the
guy in the story lifts up his shades its not the particular situation that
he thinks he is stepping around, it is the experience of problem resolution
that he is destroying. Not to mention the development of self-confidence
that is so difficult to attain because we are so encouraged by society to
let others take care of us.

I am finding now that there are many more frustrations with the foggy
vision than there was while learning techniques under sleepshades. Yes,
you could remove the shades after 5:00 p.m. so, the thing to do while under
shades between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. was to put yourself in a "what if"
mode...That is, "what if I can't really remove these shades? What would I
do? Even at the beginning when you were totally disoriented and didn't
know what you were doing you simply needed to be aware of the fact that
there were other people around you who had gotten through it and they were
just every-day ordinary people. This for me is the essence of the value of
that sort of training. Had I not gone through that training I know that I
would be very likely to fall into the same traps that many people with a
slow but, progressive loss of vision go through. I know that because, even
with that training as part of my background, I still have some of those

Well, I'd rather not be going through this but, I'd rather not have to pay
my bills, do the dishes, clean my house, or allot of other things if I
didn't have to either. The whole thing and the whole point is about
problem solving now isn't it? That seems to be what life is all about and
we can either deal with it or pass it off on someone else. Relying on
vision that continues to decrease is like buying on credit beyond your
means. Eventually the "chickens will come home to roost" and, you can
either deal with it or, as blind people are all too often encouraged to do,
pass it off. Its like allot of things, it isn't that bad really but, like
many other chores in life, it is all too easy to put more energy into
avoiding the task than it is to just deal with it.

People in Lincoln, Nebraska used to know what the purpose of the shades
were and there was support from the general public (including the state
legislature) as to what was going on. I don't know if that is still the
case there but, I feel that society in general has actually slipped back in
its understanding of this sort of orientation and adjustment training in
the blindness field. We could talk about the damage done by the ADA but,
that's a whole other "provocative" issue in and of itself. At any rate, we
have to regain the ground that has been lost in this "age of awareness" and
I think that sleepshade training is the most visible and effective way that
this can be done. The general public must see that regaining one's lost
vision is not the only successful outcome when it comes to solving the
problems of blindness.”

Bob Simonson (Omaha, Nebraska)

**35. “On this one I feel that I need to add a little more to my earlier
comments. There have been several people referring to the shades being used
because their vision may become worse, and even an issue that involves being
able to compare their ability to function visually as compared with using a
non-visual technique. Nobody should consider the possibility of further
vision loss as a reason for training under sleep-shades, the real reasons
are that people will in almost every case choose to use their remaining
vision over attempting to use a non-visual approach, and therefore are
unlikely to effectively learn the non-visual techniques and problem solving
skills to the degree that they can truly rely upon them should vision be a
component of the training experience. also, an individual that is
instinctively turning to a visual technique, without also considering a
non-visual one, clearly must be functioning under both a habit and a belief
system that is based on the idea that visual techniques are superior in
every case to the non-visual one, or that a non-visual means of completing
the task simply does not exist. Having such beliefs held as truth, an
individual is very likely to conclude that a totally blind person is less
capable than a person with some limited functional vision. Of course this
means that as a person with limited functional vision, you can only reach
one logical conclusion, when comparing yourself to a person with normal
visual fuction. This is exactly what I have observed happening to
individuals trained in an environment where the first concern is utilizing
remaining vision. In regard to being able to compare visual to non-visual
techniques, I am not aware of any training program which either requires
their clients to wear the sleep-shades twenty-four hours a day, or has them
permently attached to the person's face for life. I think we need to give
blind people more credit, learning does not begin or end with an O&M
instructor. I have been a travel instructor for more than seven years and
have worked in the field of blindness for more than ten years, not to
mention having been blind for more than twenty years, and I have not
witnessed any of the problems described by the gentleman who teaches O&M,
that is among persons trained in a program which uses sleep-shades
extensively, and emphasizes non-visual techniques over using visual
techniques. I would say with the greatest of confidence that the cases he
relates in his discussion are the direct result of a instructional approach
which emphasizes the use of vision rather than the development of effective
non-visual alternatives, and his conclusion that the problem was created by
the use of the sleep-shades, and the learning techniques to more effectively
utilize remaining vision represents the solution is in no small part based
upon his own belief system, which inspite of his professional background,
clearly holds at least some notion that non-visual techniques are not truly
equal to those based on the use of vision. By no means do I believe that
anyone should be discouraged from developing low vision techniques, the
issue is a matter of timing. A person that is exposed to such techniques
before being exposed to non-visual ones, will likely resist or out right
refuse to learn the non-visual techniques, believing that vision is the
superior approach. If one truly believes that non-visual techniques are
equal to their visual counterparts, that totally blind individuals are the
equal of their sighted peers, and that blind individuals are as equally
capable of learning through experience as are sighted persons, then why
should their be any concern about the ability of a person with some
functional vision to learn to also incorporate and utilize vision along with
the non-visual techniques? In regard to the person's ability to learn
non-visual skills without the sleep-shades, I would have to question how the
instructor, or of greater importance how the student, truly knows that the
successful result is based on only non-visual methods. Should an individual
complete training with even the slightest notion that his or her success in
completing a task was based on the use of vision rather than solely based
upon the use of non-visual techniques, can that individual possibly trust
that skill will actually carry him or her through in a situation where
visual infromation is not available. Certainly a person with limited visual
function is going to experience a situation where visual information is not
a viable option, or that individual would not be needing training. If an
individual does not trust the non-visual techniques on the same deep level
as most people trust their vision, then that person doesn't have a viable
option without the use of vision. If an individual cannot relibly function
under the majority of environmental conditions, i. e. locate a set of steps
or other situations which may represent a danger, using vision, then why is
this person attempting to travel based on visual function only? Unless both
the student and the instructor believe on some level that using a white cane
is somehow a negative experience to be avoided, then why not use both the
non-visual and visual techniques together all of the time? If the person is
using both together, and still having fears about dealing with environmental
surprizes, then isn't this a matter of limited experience, and not some
complex problem of inergrating vision and non-visual techniques together?
fFor that matter, let us suppose that a person with some functional vision
finds himself, or her self, in a situation where his or her level of visual
function could be utilized, but rather chooses to use a non-visual technique
instead, what is wrong with that? After all the object is to finish the
task effectively, and not the means by which it is done.
By all means teach low vision techniques when appropriate, but please make
certain that all of the person's resources are fully developed, and that you
and the student arn't just going through the motions. I am pleased that
this gentleman is using the sleep-shades to some degree, but unless you are
willing to make a commitment to a full program where the student is using
the shades in all skill areas as we do here, then your opinion is just that,
your opinion. I have been through both types of programs, and I cannot
recommend a program to any blind person that does not make extensive use of
the sleep-shades. This is not an emotional response, this is the opinion of
a blind person that has lived with the result of both approaches, and a
professional that has observed several hundred blind individuals
experienceing both types of programs.”

Jeff Altman (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)

FROM ME: “ I wrote Jeff back and asked, “Why sleep shades and not some other type of tool to block out vision?”

“Well, I can't say that I disagree with this issue, but I am yet to find a
set of glasses that truly blocks out light as effectively as sleep-shades.
Actually thats not really the case, when I went through training in
Pittsburgh many years ago, I was a contact lense wearer, and the regular
sleep shades caused me a lot of discomfort. My instructor then had me wear
a pair of modified sun glasses. They were painted black, and had some black
foam rubber glued around the top and edges. The problem is they were the
wrap around style popular in the fifties and sixties, and I havn't seen
anything like them in years. The woman that is raising this issue is
recalling a situation which both occured a number of years in the past, and
also in a very large city where public education is probably limited. Here
in Lincoln most people are very accustom to seeing our clients under shades,
they know what they are for, and they sometimes let us know when one of our
clients are not using the shades in the manner we intended. My sense of
this situation for this young woman is that there are other matters that
were not resolved during the time she was in training. Perhaps the center
that she was attending was not providing the adjustment counseling that she
needed at the time, or perhaps she was simply not ready to deal with the
issue of her blindness at that time. As far as the other problems she
reported, I have not had anyone complain of a problem with hearing the
changes in sound most of us rely upon, or serious headaches from the
pressure of the straps. She mentioned "facial vision", so perhaps she is
under the mistaken notion that this skill is somehow related to the sense of
touch in the skin of the face. Many people once believed this to be the
case at one time, and many blind persons were led to believe this to be the
truth. Once research was conducted, it was found to be a matter of audible
information. I think that the feeling she had regarding her blindness and
her emotional responce to the reactions of the uneducated public are the
real reasons for the beliefs she has about the shades. However, I think a
more comfortable, and better looking sleep-shade design would be a good

**36. “I write in response to the entry by Sylvia, the lady from the west coast. I think she is speaking of faceial vision or the ability of feeling something like an nearby object. Isn’t that more of a function of hearing? I’ve heard of experiments where they used one person in a room with ear phones on and in a second room there is a person with two microphones passing them to and frow before various objects; the result being the person with the earphones gets the sense they are in close aproximation to objects; the same as a blind person feeling something nearby. So if a person is really having the problem feeling things around them with the shades on, is the shades themselves so distracting for some reason to be a problem for them? I’ve used them and know many others from children to adults of all sizes who have used them and no one has mentioned this problem.

I’ also say, I have known some who use goggles and not shades and they made it through programs who require blocking out vision to learn alternatives. So if a student is having problems with one type of blocker, why shouldn’t they have a choice to use another?”

FROM ME:’ Going a little further with the above lodgic; Why not have a range of blind-folds types and let a new student pick which works best for them? I’d say there isn’t anything magical about any one type of device.”

**37. "Now rethinking my original response, I would like to
add this.

Relating to the sleep shades, when I was training for my first
guide dog, years ago, I had minimal vision, whatever that is. Many times my
instructor told me it was easier to train a totally blind person. That way
the trainer could add more ideas and suggestions without the student,
hesitating and also let the dog know that he/she was really do their job.
The sleep shade method is indeed needed in many cases, but I believe there
for these students could be more classroom time prior to the street lessons
as to the possible dangers in misguided judgements of attempting to partial
sight. Sounds odd maybe, and I do believe each of us should be trained as
individuals. Again thanks for the time to express our own particular

Lee a.Stone (Hudson , New York email at )

**38. "I feel that sleepshades are a helpful tool. I am a student at the Louisiana
Center for the blind and I realized that even though I have very little
vision I still use it. I feel that with using them a person can get all the
training that they need and if they lose more vision they do not have to go
and get more training to accommodate for their vision loss.

Together we are changing what it means to be BLIND.
Visit our web page at .

**39. "I have had beneficial experience with training under sleepshades. I have
partial vision, but despite any vision I have the skills I developed while
having to use a blindfold during cooking in the kitchen and over a grill,
crossing streets, learning computers and Braille, and using drill and power
tools in workshop enhanced my ability to discover ways in which blindness
does not hinder me from doing anything. Using sleepshades when I was at
the Colorado Center for the Blind for a summer gave me both skills in terms
of learning to use my ears, sense of touch, and sense of direction more,
while also giving me the confidence necessary for trying and accomplishing
new things. To this day I notice a difference between the skills I have
acquired from being under sleepshades compared to my partially blind
friends that have not. For example, just yesterday my friend Jim and I
crossed several streets. Every time he practically ran across, because he
was so nervous about where cars were coming from. I didn't worry at all
because I understood the traffic patterns and could hear where the cars
were running. I could also see the cars running parallel to us, meaning we
had ample time to cross. But I have learned to rely on my hearing because
that is perfect, and not my eyes as much because they are imperfect. I
feel that if I am intent on using my ears I will certainly hear a car
coming in the distance quicker, than I would be able to see it, as would
anyone who is legally blind. Therefore, I strongly suggest having
extensive training under sleepshades. It's very beneficial an d it gives
you an amazing amount of confidence. Besides, it couldn't hurt-unless you
are not taught how to use the cane right. I hope to hear other views too.
Take care,


**40. ” This year I attended Mardi Gras with the Louisiana Center and when a few of
the students went in to a record store we were told we couldn't be in there
with our masks on. We all were required to wear the sleepshades at that
given moment and we were unsure of how to handle the situation. We politely
asked the person that had requested us to take them off where the door was
and she replied rudely in the same place that you came in at. We had also
tried to explain the reason that we were wearing them, but she refused to
listen. I had never had any problems with wearing sleepshades up to that
point and I haven't had any problems since. Well to finish the story we
left the store and we refused to go back there after that.”

Together we are changing what it means to be BLIND.

Visit our web page at .

28. FROM ME: This next response is an anser to ."

**41. FROM ME: "The following response is to a note to this gentleman from respondent 32."

"Well, this one is going to be a little difficult to respond to since I do
not remember everything I wrote. Certainly I may have miss read some
elements of Ms. Sauerburger's remarks and I am very sorry for having
mistaken her gender, synthesized speach can sometimes lead to confusion.
With regard to paragraphs, I plead no contest, The time I have to devote to
these responses is very limited, and I attempt to deliver my feelings on the
subject as clearly and quickly as I can. I believe that I have something to
contribute to these discussions, but I also have many clients to serve as
well. With this in mind, I also recognize that I may not have expressed my
beliefs clearly either. I do hope that Ms. Sauerburger will understand that
I did not intend to present my views as an attack upon her personally, but
rather in an attempt to look at the results she has experienced from a
different perspective. I am firmly convinced that the use of the blindfold
to the extensive degree to which we utilize it it in our training programs
is in fact the most effective way to assure that our clients with some
degree of visual function can and will achieve the highest level of
independent functioning. I do not simply teach my students to travel
independently using non-visual techniques, my goal is clearly to assist each
of them to learn to function at an optimum level under all conditions. That
is to say, I have never met a legally blind person who has either entered
our program or left it, being unwilling to make use of his or her remaining
vision. On the other hand, I have met very few that have entered our
program that had anything more than a very slight understanding of the true
capabilities of persons functioning without vision. Nearly everyone of my
clients has entered training fully convinced that the more vision you have,
the better off you are. Nearly everyone of them has come into this training
focused on using their remaining vision, and very unwilling to consider the
possibility that there might be another way to experience a complete and
fulfilling life outside of one based upon vision. I can not think of a
singal case in which an individual who has completed training under
sleep-shades has experienced a negative outcome, and I sadly know of many
individuals that have resisted such training, opting for a low vision
alternative, and have found themselves in some situation where they have
simply run out of options. I have been through both forms of training as a
blind person, and for a time I bought into the belief that I should learn
the skills I needed by fully utilizing my remaining vision, and where
necessary learn non-visual techniques to fill in the gaps. The problem with
this approach is that I spent a very large part of this period of my life
either avoiding those situations where my vision failed to meet the
environmental demands or depending on others, with the same result, much
lower self esteem than I ever should have experienced. As my vision
declined I had to struggle to find an alternative that would fill the gap.
I have seen this same issue arise for the majority of blind individuals who
have been trained from this visually based approach. They find themselves
in a situation where their vision can not meet their needs neither can their
and limited non-visual skills. Moreover, they do not believe that their use
of vision is a poor choice, or that a non-visual technique can possibly
fulfill the required role. So they more often than not call upon an O&M
instructor every time they move to a new neighborhood, have a change in
their schedule requiring them to travel at night or in an unfamiliar area,
or whenever their vision changes. They accept a lower level of independence
as a fact of their lives, not because it has to be, but because someone told
and showed them that it should be this way. The majority of my clients, and
the majority of those individuals trained through Structured Discovery with
the use of the blind fold, do not have this problem. You cannot convince me
that anyone that is trained to use non-visual techniques without the use of
the sleep-shades, or has only limited exposure to sleep-shade experiences,
will learnanything more than to go through the motions. How can a person
trained in such a manner truely know whether his or her success was a result
of using a non-visual technique or the use of vision? Clearly such an
individual cannot determine this, especially when his or her instructor is
also premoting the use of vision at the same time. Using the sleep-shades
from time-to-time simply does not allow the individual enough opportunity to
experience how effective non-visual alternatives can truly be. I am also
convinced that this practice will further reinforce the person's notion that
the more vision you have, the better off you are. I say this since the
person will more likely experience more success when using the familiar
visual technique, than when employing the still unfamiliar non-visual
alternative. Even if the instructor does not believe that visual techniques
are superior to the non-visual ones, by continuing to premote the use of
vision, not providing a stable learning environment in which the client can
experience non-visual alternatives over a long term period, and doing little
to combat the client's mistaken notions about nonvisual function, the
instructor has thoroughly reinforced this belief system. If a person with
limited visual function believes that he or she is better off than a totally
blind person, then what can he or she possibly believe about him or herself
when compared with a normally sighted person? Except that they can never be
the equal of a normally sighted person. What will happen to a person that
relys upon vision when it cannot meet the demands of environmental
conditions, and does not truly believe in his or her ability to utilize the
appropriate non-visual techniques, or does not have the true confidence to
rely upon them? Perhaps nothing, or perhaps, like my nephew, that person
steps off a train platform and falls to the rails below. I know the reasons
my nephew fell off of that platform, and so does he, and we both take it
very seriously. Blind people are taking charge of their own lives, we will
no longer settle for what others believe is best for us, and we will no
longer accept instructors in the role of masters. My clients are my equal
partners in learning, and they are the best resource in the learning
process. The paradigm has shifted, and those that do not move with the
change will sooner or later be pushed aside by it. Oops, I forgot the
paragraphs again.”

Jeff Altman (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)

**42. This truly is a widely debated topic, and I can just picture the audio blurr of shouting matches that would take place if this discussion were
conducted in person rather than over the internet. I respect the views of all those who have responded to the thought provoker concerning the use of sleep shades for training of partially sighted persons; however I do have some reservations when it comes to the use of these masks. I agree
whole-heartedly with sylvia in that the sleep shades themselves are more the issue than the acceptance of blindness. I have been born and lived my entire life with very little vision in one eye, and I have accepted that this is how I came into the world. I will be the first to admit that my eyes are bad. One point that Sylvia brought up was the fact that the shades were uncomfortable to wear. I too have found this to be true. I cannot get used to having something firmly held over my face, especially
the eye area, and the presence of the shade itself would pose as a distraction for me. Another problem I see with the sleep shades is that they are not only uncomfortable, but a magnet for unwanted attention from the general public. My white cane may draw some stares; however, a white cane is more common in the public streets than a sleepshade. Sleep shades
can attract more than just stares, whispers, comments, or snickers from people; they can also increase your chances of being a target for crime.
As I have gone through my college career and young adult life, I have been
reminded by countless people that a person carrying a white cane or some other evidence of a disability is more likely to become a victim of crime,
and the sleep shade seems to me to be an added insentive for someone to choose a person at a disadvantage to rob or attack since the individual obviously wouldn't be able to see the criminal.
Although training with the blockage of remaining vision is widely used and
supported, I feel that the use of sleep shades should be a highly encouraged option rather than a mandate. Every student or trainee has his
or her own style of learning, and they may or may not benefit from the sleep shades. I strongly encourage alternative methods of blocking vision
when necessary. When in public, a student or trainee can use adapted glasses that are less conspicuous and more comfortable than the sleep
shade. Encouraging the learners to simply ignore any visual stimuli would be more effective, as they won't be wearing sleep shades throughout their daily lives. The training should be as similar to actual daily living as
possible. This type of coaching will eliminate the problem of cheating as the man in the above paragraph had done; and if the use of remaining sight
should be discouraged, night travel and/or probing from the instructor would be excellent alternatives.

Kristine Beltz (Florida State University)

**43. "I feel that a person who cheats with sleepshades is only cheating themselves. However, I am totally blind and decided to see how it felt to wear them and they are very uncomfortable.”

Lisa (NAVS)

FROM ME: “Their are many different styles, some more in-comfortable than others; some not bad at all. Some are cloth, some are plastic, some are like goggles and some like a mask. You need to find a pair that works for you. Can’t concentrate if the sleepshade is making you un-comfortable, right?”

**44. Well, I have never before worn sleep shades for that purpose. However, as somebody with only light perception I would think wearing sleepshades to enhance
the learning curve would not work. I would imagine this is pretty frightening, especially for someone who has had vision and is losing it, whether gradually
or all at once. I'm curious to know from those of you who do use sleepshades for this purpose, how exactly is it done?

Jake Joehl, Chicago, Illinois US