Post Title: Adapting to the Mobility Needs Across the Spectrum of Sight Loss.
The setting is a posh charity dinner for a local women’s center. A matronly-looking blonde decked out in shimmery dangling earrings, a glittery black blouse, dark dress pants and heels enters the dining area. A slightly-younger, tall bearded man in a suit walks with her holding onto the crook of her arm. The woman releases his arm and she pulls out the chair for her companion. He sits next to her. They look like every other attendee in the room. When the waiter brings the beverages, the woman points out his drink is at the noon position, his silverware is on the right and the napkin on the left. He is completely blind, and the woman has partial sight.
Nadene and Matt are two members of my Lions Club. I am the third vision-impaired member. I marvel at the support Nadene provides for Matt. It’s so natural, with enough guidance but not overbearing.
I have observed another member with Matt. At a certain point, she served as his O & M (Orientation and Mobility) instructor. She has given us both rides home from our meetings. In the parking lot of Matt’s complex, she reminds him to use his cane with wide sweeps so he can stay on the walkway leading up to the door. He murmurs assent and exits the car. She doesn’t hover. She lets him move independently. After a few minutes, she, too, leaves the car to ensure he has made it all right to the lobby of his complex.
Other members follow behind Matt to ensure he gets in or out of the car or restaurant all right.
How do people know what help to provide? I wonder if it is any easier if it’s a vision-impaired person providing the aid?
I’ve lately become more aware of the process of giving and receiving help due to sight loss. Some people watch and offer help when needed. Others ask, at least for the first time, but probably more when they are in a variety of circumstances. Kiriam has been trained when to offer help and when to let an individual move independently.
Before I had my own big sight loss in 2008, I had no idea how to offer to accept help. I didn’t know any blind people at all. When I had to ask for mobility help or even accept it, I found it awkward, embarrassing and uncomfortable, especially if the person took my hand as if I were a child. I didn’t know how to guide a person to help me so I felt natural.
I still struggle, in ways, with this today. But I am much better at offering help to others with mobility issues.
I’ve become bold and ask because of the sight loss continuum. What one person can see varies from what another sees, even if they both use a white cane.
Asking a vision-impaired individual is the best way to ensure we offer the appropriate help. And remember to respect the response.
Don’t be offended if the person refuses your help. He or she knows what is necessary, and likely wants to keep as independent as possible.
When asking, I’ve noticed some people start out with “What can you see?” as they find it helpful to get a gauge on the other person’s vision range. “Shadows and light” are different from “You are blurry.” Service-oriented people at airports often ask this question.
I personally find it unhelpful as my own vision is problematic, and hard to describe. So that throws me into a quandary of how to respond without going into a lot of explanation. When I approach a situation, I focus on asking how I can best help someone instead of asking for what may be considered personal information. But everyone is different.
Recently, I had the experience of guiding one of the speakers at Disability InSIGHTS. At 6 foot, 4 inches to my 5 foot, 1 inch, the difference in height made guiding a little comical. He dropped his hand down to my shoulder. He may have had such a variety of guides that it seemed perfectly natural to him, I never asked. But I noticed how natural and graceful it seemed when others a bit taller offered him help.
I wonder why I never asked. Did I fear it was too personal a question?
I was showing another friend who is blind my apartment, which contains a variety of international pieces of artwork I love. I wanted her to feel the textures and shapes so she could have a better idea of what my prize possessions looked like. It was so natural.
I am a lot more verbal nowadays than I used to be.
In 2014, I invited Mo, my first friend with sight loss, to my book launch held at my church. I had written about him in my book, Mobility Matters, and it thrilled me when he accepted my invitation and even answered questions about sight loss with me. He talked about being completely blind.
When it came to mobility, I guided him verbally. But after it was over, I forgot to mention he had to take a step down outside the building. My unfortunate friend fell down the step. He told me a few days later, he had a messy fracture in his ankle. Imagine my horror! All because I neglected to see he needed more instruction.
In my memoir, Cane Confessions, one of my stories deals with a woman who feared for my safety around her stairs. Now that I look at it from her viewpoint, I can better understand her fears, though it was still comical to hear her responses!
In 2019, when I offered to host Max, my thoughts jumped to that frightening scenario on the church steps with Mo. What if I forgot to mention something to him and he hurt himself because of me? I’m happy to report I didn’t stress over it. But I also didn’t take him upstairs to visit my apartment. I explained how I didn’t want to hurt his feelings but I was unsure of my guiding abilities around the steps.
He understood and said from what my brother had mentioned, there were narrow passageways and it would be difficult. It really made me feel good my brother had also anticipated my friend’s feelings on the matter and explained. But I noticed something else, I didn’t fear any other injury except for the stairs.
This question interests me because I want to make it as easy and natural for others to guide / help those with vision loss as possible, especially people who are not accustomed to being around individuals who are blind or partially-sighted.
What is the best way to put them at ease?
Since I’ve struggled with both offering and accepting help at various times, I’d love to get some feedback.
If you are vision-impaired, what do you say or not say? Any advice to put sighted individuals at ease and better know how to approach and offer help to those with differing amounts of vision loss?
5 Stars “…I’m not vision impaired. I don’t read non-fiction for enjoyment. I am not what some might consider the target market for this book, but I can tell you that I would recommend it to my own teenagers, my husband, my teenage students, and anyone else I know as a book of bravery, encouragement, motivation, testimony, and just as a pleasure read. Don’t pass it by: You will be blessed.”–An Amazon Reader
–An Amazon Reader
5 Stars“Living in the Power instead of the fear!”
Mobility Matters elegantly shares Amy Bovaird’s emotions and experience which anyone going through vision loss can identify with. The transformation as she overcomes her fear and the enemies voices that her loss of vision will now define who she is as a person and dictate the rest of her life, will inspire hope to each reader. Amy’s journey stepping out in faith and how the Lord’s Word gave her the strength to keep going, is a must read.
This book is not only for those going through the hallway of vision loss, but for each family member or any one who loves someone losing their vision would also benefit by reading.
Mobility Matters Stepping out in Faith has left me thinking I will now call canes power sticks!!!
Michael Benson, Founder
Visual Experience Foundation
4 Stars “…As a mobility specialist myself, I found this book of great interest to me for its subject matter. I was quite amazed that Amy could get around on her own with her genetic condition, particularly at night, since individuals with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) tend to lose their night vision and are using a cane at night much sooner than Amy was using any assistive device (even a bright light). Amy maintained her positive attitude, her faith and her sense of humour. If only we all could do that in times of crisis!” –Kathryn Svendsen, Mobility Specialist, Canada
5 Stars “Couldn’t stop reading until I finished. Very inspirational. Will definitely be looking for more by this author!” –Sharon Hannah
5 stars “…This book really inspired me. Amy’s outlook on life is what I would like to model in my own. Yes, going blind SUCKS but she took it to another level. She made it into an adventure and I needed to be reminded of that again. Her positive outlook on this all has really encouraged me in my current situation now. Taking the step of faith to move on forward and embrace life for what it is. I highly recommend purchasing this book! Be inspired, take a journey behind the life of someone with Usher, smile, laugh, and enjoy! –Andi Nicole
5 Stars “As a person who lives with chronic illness, I sometimes get bogged down with books on illness that feel really heavy. This one does not. Author Amy Bovaird, who is losing her sight, writes so well about her personal experiences, I feel like I’m walking alongside her as I read. I kept coming back to the story to see what happened–was she going to let fear stop her? Would she overcome?
The lessons Amy learns through her experiences apply to any of us who fear aging, illness, new symptoms, or really anyone who needs some inspiration, and that reminder that much can be accomplished if you step out and forward–even when you cannot see beyond that first step. I definitely enjoyed this book. –Kimberly Rae, Bestselling Author of the Stolen Series
Blog post review by Gillian Davis, RP Tunnel of Sight
One of the best books I have ever read about mobility and white cane use is called Mobility Matters: Stepping out in Faith by Amy Bovard. It is funny, poignant and packs a lot of tips and useful information. You can find it by following the link below to Amy’s web page and listen to a chapter before you buy, it is wonderful.