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Diane Brauner and David Nimmo

Diane Brauner and her intern, David Nimmo visited our class on Monday 24 January to tell us about Orientation and Mobility for people who are blind. Diane teaches mostly young kids in several schools systems about the skills required to navigate in the world.

Orientation relates to knowing where you are. Mobility is about moving around. People who are blind have to learn special skills for both. Diane told us that adequate muscle tone is often a problem for children who were born blind because they don’t push up or crawl as much as sighted children.

They brought goggles that illustrate different types of visual impairment. Below we see Megan trying the limited visual field goggles.

Megan with a limited visual field simulator

Diane and David illustrated for us how to properly do Sighted Guide with a person who is blind1. Holding on to the guide’s arm just above the elbow and walking about 1/2 step behind allows the person who is blind to detect steps up or down just in time.

Diane demonstrated cane skills for clearing your path and walking up and down stairs. She also talked about how important it is to listen to the sound the cane makes. We could distinguish the sound of the cane hitting plastic, wood, and metal.

The we got our turn to briefly experience blind navigation. We divided up into pairs (for our safety) with only one of each pair wearing a blindfold. We spent about 10 minutes each traveling around Sitterson Hall.

Eden walked confidently using the cane Brad tries the stairs Professor Weiss tries cane travel

We found that we were tired after just a few minutes! Holding your arm out and concentrating on listening was surprisingly hard. A few participants reported difficulty maintaining their balance. We found that walking in halls was much easier than large open spaces (though the east hall with all the furniture was a challenge). We found it was hard to know how far we had traveled.

1 I was so interested I forgot to take pictures!