Quite an invigorating week! That's the nice way of saying man it was a crazy week, but great!
I've been working on my cane mobility lessons on Tuesdays and ever since the first lesson when I tried using a blindfold and emotionally freaked out, I've been just walking with my eyes closed. Now being the survivalist,(or is it survivorist ) that I am, I expected to constantly be opening my eyes to check that I wasn't going to fall off a curb or veer out into a street. But NO!!!! I can keep the eyes closed and be comfortable with that. Of course, I know my instructor is there and she won't let me fall off that curb or walk into that street.
We decided to move ahead on my Goals-To-Accomplish list and try walking to the bus stop, getting on a bus to the MARTA (transit) station, picking up a different bus home, and walking back via an unfamiliar portion of the sidewalk. Even though I suggested doing this, I was quaking in my shoes thinking about actually doing it.
First segment went great- eyes closed, found the curbs, but my internal GPS was a little wonky and I kept thinking I was headed toward the sidewalk while I wasactually walking into the grassy area. I must have looked like a real spaz because my instructor asked me to try the curb/sidewalk again to get the direction thing going. Once I realized I wasn't checking for the whole sidewalk with the cane, and I need to, the spazzy walker disappeared. :-)
I decided the bus segment need to be open-eyed so I knew when to exit and where to look for the next bus. That went well, but I did notice a couple people looking at me. I think they were trying to tell if I was totally blind, partially sighted, or goofing on them (which some people think when they find out you actually can see some things).
The walk back on the unfamiliar sidewalk was a little nerve- wracking since I didn't know when I'd run into a broken up sidewalk or a section with a height difference. Made it though, and as I found the stairs leading to my home, I realized something. I was damn proud of myself! No hyperventilating on my first public outing with a cane. Not as embarrassing as I thought it would be, and actually, some helpful people, like the bus driver who asked if I needed any help getting off the bus and letting me know where the bus was positioned in relation to the entrance to the MARTA station. Tuesday, I was the Little Train That Could! ( if you're not old enough to have grown up reading that children's book, look it up!)
Thursday AM, I met with the Director of Public Works for the city of Dunwoody (my town). Long story short, I had placed a repair ticket on the city government's page requesting the sidewalks to be fixed on the corridor I walk to and from the bus. I explained the vision loss thing and the cane thing. I decided to send the request as an email to all the City Council members as well, along with attached photos of the offending cement. One member responded and he connected me with the Public Works Director. Although I'm not using a cane full time yet, I took the cane with me to practice using it and to show him exactly how cracks, broken cement, and differences in height could effect a visually impaired person. By the time we were halfway through the walk, he said his eyes had been opened to the danger of the sidewalks. This is what I had hoped. Asking him to evaluate them on his own, wouldn't let him view it from my perspective. Walking with me, would. In fairness, I should disclose that my original request for repairs had been in November '09 and basically there was no response. So in this email/request, I mentioned that if I didn't receive a definitive time frame for when the repairs could be done, I was going to the news media. I pointed out that as a new city, it probably wouldn't look good to have the needs of a "disabled resident" being ignored, andit might be a human interest story to the TV consumer reporter or the local newspaper editor. Did that have something to do with me being contacted by a council member? Could be. Did I use my vision loss to my advantage? You betcha. And so far, it's working. The Council meets tomorrow night to discuss this and other issues. I asked the PW Director and the councilman to keep me in the loop. We'll see. And while I applauded their efforts, I made it clear that this was not an issue to drop. I'm a determined woman, and I don't give up easily!