Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘training’


Still Looking Back:

Time is passing, but I have to admit that I wish it would go by a little faster. The week has been interesting at times and upsetting at others. My favorite thing happened on Monday afternoon. I returned to the residence hall and was given a small package. I opened it to find 3 DVD’s from my church, Mabel White Baptist. A friend of mine, Jana, had been so thoughtful as to have the master copied for each Sunday that I had already been gone. It was even more special to me because I got to see more of the people in the church and choir than just a copy of what was edited for tv. I spent the next hour or so, singing my heart out with the choir with tears of joy running down my face. I could even see Mr. George Foster’s colors! Many of you won’t understand that, but my church friends will. Basically, Mr. George is a dear man who sings in our choir in the front row. Although I only see dark shadows and some blurry bright colors now, around Mr. George I see the most beautiful colors and when he reads from the Bible (he orates better than James Earl Jones) those colors brighten to a bright light of white. I love to hear and see him read! I do not believe in the New Age explanations of auras, so don’t even ask me about them. This has nothing to do with auras or New Age spiritualism. God has just given me a little gift to help me cope as He saw fit to take my vision away. Regardless, all of this is in His plan and will somehow bring Him glory, especially if I can hold tight to Him and not get in the way.

Training has gone well when I have been well enough to go. I finished making several groups of communication cards and brailling them so I can find them when I need them. I made some for clothes shopping, food shopping, restaurants, airports and travel, and hair cuts. I know how to do them now and will make more when the situation warrants them.

In mobility, I practiced cane travel without my dear Joey. He didn’t like that. He thinks he is supposed to guide me. He is, but I have to know the ropes to better guide him. We have also found that my training in Ga was ok, but lacking in some ways. A few things I actually think are safer the way HKNC teaches them. The hardest thing was reteaching myself to walk with my cane remembering to “clear my steps.” That means that my cane is supposed to be ahead of my steps so that it will catch potholes, debris, etc. before my foot steps down there and gives me enough reaction time to stop. I am sooo uncoordinated that we laughed as I tried to keep in step. I was starting to walk like a tin soldier!big grin

Due to asthma attacks, I missed technology most of the week. In Independent living, I cooked Chinese Chicken in a wok on the stovetop. It was good. It was pretty easy and didn’t take long to make. That is the key for me. I want it all quick and easy, but good!

Sign language instruction is becoming the priority for me in Commuications (CLC) class. I am still doing well with my braille. I have now gotten well over a hundred contractions learned and am brailling Perkins Braillers(Perkins Brailler- non-electric typewriter with only 6 keys and a spacebar) in contracted braille every night to cement those in my head. We are now going to put more emphasis on the sign languge (tactual) so I can communicate around here more. Most people are deaf, so I have a hard time talking with them since my signs have been so limited. I am looking forward to that. I have been teaching Scott, my husband, some signs at night on the XBox 360 live web cam. He is trying, bless his heart!

I saw a Retinologist and the eye doctor on Thursday morning after one my my attacks. I was in the nurse’s office all morning. They pushed my doctor’s appointment until last so I could get over my attack first. They dialated my eyes. I am now showing some damage to my retina which has been hard to see until now. I also have some damage to my optic nerve pole which is explaining my very poor central vision. That narrowed my cause of blindness down to atypical Retinitis Pigmentosa or Rod/Cone Dystrophy. Regardless, they say I am in late stages. Total blindness is a definite possibility. They recommend to have some final answers on my prognosis and my children’s children that I go see the world’s leading expert on Retinal Degenerative diseases who is located in Boston, MA. Since this will not have anything to do with my job, Vocational Rehab won’t pay for it, so HKNC can’t send me now. It will have to be something we do ourselves once I return to GA. It is an expensive trip, so I doubt it will happen, but we will just let time and God tell us on that issue. Needless to say, the news didn’t make me feel any better.

I have mentioned more asthma attacks and yes, I have had two very bad ones. The smoke situation has gotten worse and some smokers have taken all of this personally. I am becoming public enemy no. 1. Although, actually, the NY state laws were being violated before. My asthma attacks just brought it home to HKNC why those laws were important. They moved the smoking areas, but without doing much thinking, just placed them along the main sidewalk that we all have to trail to go between the residence hall and the training building. Now I walk through a tunnel of smoke. After the last attack, the powers that be said they will move the benches, but are looking for a way to be equitable to the smokers. I told the medical team that they should move the smokers to the middle of the field on the side of the building, but provide them with a covered place to sit and talk as they smoke. They are having a big meeting next week to discuss the matter. In the meantime, I am late to class as I sit in the residence hall until staff says the sidewalk is cleared of smokers. I was already pretty lonely here since conversation was difficult, but some of the smokers now make a few “comments” that even I can understand and stay away from me. It is upsetting and I was feeling pretty tired after no sleep for two nights of terrible breathing and two attacks. I spent Friday afternoon crying and wanting to go home. I can sign that very well now!!!!!

Well, don’t worry about us. Joey snuggles up to me even closer when I am sick. He is my 2nd best friend! Jesus is my first and don’t worry, Scott is tied at 2nd!

Read Full Post »


Continuing my look back:

This has been a long week and weekend. My braille class on Monday was very frustrating for me and possibly my teacher who had to put up with me. I was so nervous with her watching me that I couldn’t make out hardly any letters. Alone, I am reading a whole page in 20 mins. surprise Oh, I am burning the pages up, aren’t I? Actually that is faster since I used to get tired before I finished a page. I find it funny and frustrating at the same time when I spell out a word like b- e- a- t. Then cannot figure out the word to save my life. My mind can’t seem to switch from the individual letters to the word-beat. I can’t even read a simple word like beat. The whole thing is from the fact that I am actually “rewiring” my brain to take print input through the portions of the brain that deal with touch. Then it has to be routed to the reasoning part of the brain. Slowly, but surely, I will get it. You have to focus very hard and you have to relax. Relaxing when people are watching me has always been a problem for me. I used to be able to teach away and do all kinds of crazy things with my students as my principal would come in and out, help us, watch us, etc. However, as soon as it was evaluation time, I would freeze up terribly. I have such a strange personality. Anyway, I practice my braille daily, so I am sure it will eventually click.

In support group, we shared how friends and family, though loving us and well-intentioned, can’t seem to understand our decrease vision and hearing problems. They all shared how even family members get tired and don’t even want to try to communicate because it is frustrating for them, too. Arguments are quite common because one or both parties will misunderstand each other. It was echoed around the room as more hearing and vision is lost, the more we tend to sit alone.

It technology class, I had to spend time with JAWS and the braille display editing the mistakes in a paper. I would go through with the JAWS and catch what I could that way, and then switch to the braille display and find the rest. I still like using the braille display better. I misunderstand JAWS speech a lot, but until I am better with braille, I will need both.

Tech Lab

"Tech Lab"

This was the tech setup for me including the braille display.

"This was the tech setup for me including the braille display."

Joey under the desk in my tech class.

"Joey under the desk in my tech class."

In communications, we began making a communications booklet using a simple photo album that is small enough to fit into a pocket. Val printed up some cards with some common things that I might need if out alone such as, “Please lead me to a quiet table” or “Please help me to the handicapped accessible restroom.” She also made one to inform people that I am deafblind and can speak inviting them to type on the regular or QWERTY keyboard of my portable braille communicator to talk with me. The next morning she took me out early to breakfast at a small cafe that really was quite fancy. At 8:00 am, they were dressed a bit more formal than we are used to and the meals were definitely more than Waffle House and Shoneys breakfast bar. The food was good. I used my cards to get us to a table. I then used the SBC (braille communicator) to ask about food categories. I choose the omelets. Then the various omelets were typed in as I read the braille side. I chose the Western Omelet with homefries, coke, and V8 juice. It was slower going than normal ordering, but when I can read faster, it will be easier. Many places do not have braille menus and often do not have those menus transcribed very well, so they are difficult to use. We will use this again soon and I will have Val take some pictures to help you understand it better.

I also began sign instruction with a communications teacher. I will be doing exclusively tactual sign instruction. It is really the only sign that is usable to me. I see so little of the other person’s finger movements that is too easy to misunderstand the signs.

In communications, Val also helped me to pick out a braille wristband watch, a wallet for keeping my money sorted, various writing guides that are tons better than what I have tried to use, and messenger bag. I don’t know if I will get the messenger bag, but we discussed it. I have to keep my hands free to command Joey and shoulder bags frequently fall off during the command movements. Sometimes it scares Joey falling off like that. I am also looking into a little backpack purse, too. All of these things I used to take for granted. I can’t count money anymore because I can’t see what denomination the money is. I have learned money folding, but without something to keep them in the folding gets messed up in my pocket. I am then back to not knowing for sure what my money is and people take advantage of me when I give them more money than I think I am. I have also use signature guides and check writing guides, but they all tend to slip and are hard to place correctly on the paper. Here Val showed me guides for writing cards, letters, checks, etc. The check writing guide is so unlike anything I have seen and it worked very well. You actually put the check inside a plastic holder with slots in the right places. There is no way to get it wrong.

In Independent Living, I could Chicken Parmigiana in the microwave with noodles cooked in the rice cooker. It went quite well. The chicken turned out well and was done in 5 mins. I think even someone like me who hates to cook can handle that. My husband might like the outcome of this training.

I also saw the low vision spec. again. We did another field of vision test since the doctor who specializes in Usher’s Syndrome will be seeing me next week. We did the full test which means they didn’t shorten it for just a little more than my known peripheral vision. It was long and I had a terrible headache afterwards. Melida, the low vision spec., also helped me with the CCTV to show me my current magnification requirements and then helped me find the right tints for the new glasses they are going to get me that will help with light sensitivity, UV protection, and clarity. The glasses will be dark amber with shields on the top and sides. I haven’t been able to get exactly what I need anywhere else.

Mia, my case social worker and mental health specialist, helped me by changing my schedule a little more. My case manager wanted me to have a little less self-directed study and more actual instruction in sign, braille, and technology. One really neat thing she did was to schedule a class with her, Mia, and Steffie, the deafblind woman that I try to talk with as often as I can. Steffie is very patient and kind. She even tries to teach me new signs. With Mia’s help, we are going to talk more so that I can learn the tactual sign faster.

In not so good news, I missed the Apple Festival on Sat because I had to take Joey to the vet. I noticed that he was getting ear infections in both ears. I expected that since he is prone to them and was trying to prevent it, but he still got them. The vet was very nice and did a deep clean of the ear canals using a syringe and small tubing. Joey was a real trooper. He is now getting drops in both ears daily for two weeks that has hydrocortisone, antibiotic, and anti-fungal meds in it. It has a long tubing to allow deep access to the ear canal as well. That should really get the meds down where it is needed. We will go back in two weeks for a recheck.

I was not allowed to go to church on Sunday because they had another trip planned to the festival, so there wouldn’t be enough staff. I was told to go to the festival. It seems these trips are counted as part of my training. I was observed and instructed as the day went on. The festival was nice. It was a lot of walking which I like. I had a little food like roasted corn and apple pie with ice cream. We were all “appled out” though after about 3 hours and since we were allowed to be out until after 4:00, they took us to a beach about 20 mins or so away. It wasn’t a beach like I am used to since there wasn’t much beach sand, but dirt and rocks. However, it was still very pretty. I could feel the breezes and make out the white blurs of boats on the water. We were on North Shore meaning we could see the land of the mainland a short distance away. I couldn’t, but it was all interpreted to me. They describe every thing in detail to you. I would imagine that to do that so well to help a blind person visualize would take a good deal of practice.

Today is the Columbus Day holiday, so the majority of HKNC is closed. I am just catching up with the blog, sleeping, and studying braille. Joey is resting. He doesn’t feel quite up to par. My allergies and asthma is getting a little worse due to the fall weather, so my blood sugars are running a little higher has well. I will spend most of the day resting and preparing for the coming week. I have some pics of things I took regarding training. I am having a little trouble getting them uploaded, but will add them as soon as I figure out what is wrong. It worked well last week, so who knows?

I miss you all greatly. Take care and know that Little Joe and I are thinking about you and praying for you. Yes, Little Joe prays every night. He is a very spiritual dog.

Read Full Post »


Week 2: Out of the Evaluation Phase

Well, they have moved me out of the usual 8 week evaluation period and straight into the training phase. Hopefully, that will mean that I will get to come home a little sooner. We shall see. I still have got to get this old brain to learn a lot of new skills. This week involved me transcribing more Braille and using the Perkins Brailler, which is like an old manual typewriter, but it only has 6 keys and a spacebar. The 6 keys each stand for one dot in the Braille cell. Depending on which keys I hit, I form different patterns of dots to form letters or punctuation. For example, there are 2 vertical rows of 3 dots in a Braille cell. 1 dot in the top left is letter a. If I want to capitalize that a, I use two Braille cells beside each other with the first having a dot in the lower right, 6, spot meaning the next letter is a capital. Then I would follow it with a dot in the upper right, 1, spot. The dots are numbered like this:
1 4
2 5
3 6
Here is the Braille alphabet, so you can get an idea of what I am learning:
Braille Alphabet:

Braille Pictures, Images and Photos

Words and sentences are made by combinations of those cells. However to write these letters so the dot show up on the top side of a page to be read, you have to type them backwards. Now that is a feat. If you are interested in learning more about Braille and Louis Braille, who invented the language, check out the American Federation for the Blind’s site, http://www.afb.org/braillebug/braille_print.asp.
I am continuing to cook blindfolded in the Independent Learning class. I cooked rice in a rice cooker that was quite simple, but try it blindfolded without burning yourself. I have to find all the ingredients for whatever I am cooking and place them on the tray (like you use to carry your plate at a school cafeteria). That is so I don’t drop something on the floor as I cut, open, stir, etc. Cutting, chopping is done by using the knuckles as a guide and sliding down through the meat or potatoes or whatever with my fingertips pulled back out of the way. It is still hard, but I only would scrape the knuckles a little as opposed to cutting a finger off.
In technology, they adjusted JAWS, a screen reader, to work with my FM system so I can hear it a little better. I hope now I can learn how to use it better. Some of you might remember my computer talking to me when you came to the school for finals or enrolling.
The coolest thing was finding out that I read Grade 1 Braille well enough to begin working with the Braille display. The Braille display looks sort of like a wrist board that some computers have. It sits under the regular keyboard with a part that extends out past the keyboard that has plastic bumps that fit through holes in the shape of the Braille cell that I showed earlier. Whatever is on the screen at the moment is shown in the Braille cells. In a short time because of my excellent teacher, Bill, I was going up and down a document reading various parts about the life of Helen Keller. I wonder why they use that document.
Another neat thing I did was in mobility. In addition to going out into the community to show them if Little Joe and I could maneuver safely on our own, they showed me how to get help as a deaf blind person alone. They give you a card that hangs around your neck with specific words and order of those words on it that you hold up when you want to cross the street. It says, “Please help me to cross the street. I am deaf blind.” The choice and order of words has been researched thoroughly. In fact, one of my instructors led the research recently for his Phd. dissertation . They found that if you said, “I am deaf blind,” first that it scared people away completely. If you put “Help me” first, people didn’t read far enough to see what the help was for and assumed you were asking for money. The current use of words was found to be the best to get people to be willing to help. After just a few minutes, a motorist actually stopped the car, got out, and asked to help me across the street. I thought it was a set up meaning a staff member who was waiting to show me how it worked, but no, it was an ordinary motorist who saw my card and thought I was completely alone. I have to admit that it was still a bit scary. The world is full of crazy people today.
For fun, I got to go to Shea Stadium and watch the NY Mets play. New Yawkers, as they call themselves, really take their baseball seriously. Most of the things I had heard about the NY fans seems true. They can be rowdy. It was fun. With each resident that went, an interpreter sat beside them and tactually signed to them and me what was going on during the game. Of course, they had to teach me some new signs at the same time to do this for me. It was very interesting. NY lost 10-9. In sign, the score is done by signing the numbers giving the winning score first and signing the home team or team that you are pulling for close to your heart. The other score is signed in front of you away from the chest. In other words, my interpreter signed the 10 in front of her away from her chest and then moved her hand to her heart and signed the 9. That was a new idea for me. It is amazing how in the way they do signs it gives so much information.Shea Stadium- baseball game from way up high
I didn’t get to take Little Joe to the game with me. They felt he would not be safe and would get too nervous. He stayed at the school in the office with personnel. They fed him treats and played with him with his toys all night. They really love Joe here. He gets more attention than any of the other guide dogs. He is truly spoiled. He even gets his own bed in my room.
I get to go to church tomorrow. The subject of religion up here has been a bit touchy. I have gotten tremendous help on every other subject, but going to church is like , “uh, we will see what we can do…, but I don’t know.” I guess that is because it is hard to get volunteers from outside for taking me to church. The staff is wonderful and really try. Well, tomorrow, staff is plentiful, so they have agreed to get staff to drop me off at a United Methodist Church about 5 minutes from the school. They will pick me up after church. I am a little nervous because I won’t know how to get around, and I don’t know how these people will know how to help me. I will trust the Lord to send me the helpful people. In addition, as I speak about religion at this point, I have to say I have gotten into “trouble” already. Most of you know that speaking of God, Jesus, how my faith sustains me, etc. just rolls out. I don’t preach or anything, and I don’t really witness except by example, I hope. However, in the Usher’s Syndrome support group that I have to attend on Monday afternoons, they asked if we had accepted our Usher’s, and if so how had we arrived at that point. I kept quiet until they specifically asked me to share. I am not ashamed, so I began with I believe that there is a God who is greater than I and that He has sifted everything that life and/or Satan wishes to throw into our path. If He has decided that I should face certain trials, then I know from experience and His word that it is for His glory and my benefit. I can handle all things through Christ who strengthens me. I then went on saying that it was still hard at times and how I have many family members and friends who support me. In other places, they also ask you a lot of questions to get to know you. Many times the questions of how are you coping, how are you handling these things, etc. come up. In a conversation with one lady, and I don’t remember who. She told me that we are supposed to leave religion and politics out of conversations here. I responded with the fact that I am not going up to residents or staff and trying to convert them. I was asked my feelings and thoughts, so I gave them. I will not respond with anything other than the truth. My faith is a big part of who I am, and I could not change that even if I wanted to do so. Of course, I understand the policy, and it is necessary in a place like this for the protection of residents, other staff and myself. The lady was not angry at all, and it was just a be aware kind of thing, so it didn’t bother me at all.
Well, Little Joe wants to go play in the dog run, and I need to walk my 3 miles. I will tell you more of my adventures another time. Keep praying for us.

Read Full Post »


SAT ® and ACT® preparation is on anyone’s mind if they plan to go to college. Most of our curriculums will help prepare you for the writing, verbal, and math portions, but one section tends to stump a lot of us, and that is vocabulary. Where do they come up with some of those words? Finding a good resource that is interesting is the key. If you are blind or deafblind, the resources are very limited, as well. VocabAhead may just be the choice for you and your students with its “entertaining and effortless vocabulary building solution”.

VocabAhead’s SAT Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos, and MP3s is a simple, but handy study aid for any trying to bone up on their vocabulary. The main product of this company is a book. I will describe it first for those blind and deafblind with some residual sight for use with a CCTV. Each page covers one word. The page lists the correct spelling of the word and its part of speech. It then lists the definition along with a humorous cartoon illustrating the word’s meaning. The cartoon has two to three different sentences describing the cartoon using the word or using the word appropriately in additional example sentences. The page concludes with a short list of synonyms and antonyms for the word. There are 30 units which group words in loose categories of similarity. At the end of the unit, a review exercise is provided of matching and fill-in-the blank practice of the words in that unit. Answers are included in the back of the book. This is a great way to build visual connections to easily learn and reinforce that learning.

Visual learning is not the only style supported by this little aid. You can download the narrations of each page on MP3 files to your favorite player and listen and learn on-the-go. This is great for blind and auditory learners and those with reading difficulties and dyslexia. There are also videos to download that will allow you to take the book with you in a digital fashion on your IPod, IPhone, and IPad which for some students with special needs is a great plus. The narrations of the videos are not closed captioned, but the deaf will find it useful as the book is if they prefer apps for learning. Some autistics are learning to use the IDevices to spur their learning and reinforce their memory and attention spans. The audio files and the videos are free for download of their website. I also hope the team will add a feature. That is a pronunciation guide for the word. Some students need that visual key to help them with learning to pronounce words. Regardless, this is a perfectly priced study aid for vocabulary improvement.

I must add a caution to parents and to adults who are wary of the content they put into their minds. There are some cartoon and sentence examples that some may consider inappropriate for some readers.  One sentence for anathema describes a girl using voo-doo to put a curse on her boyfriend. A cartoon for the word carnal shows a busty woman. Each parent or adult needs to decide if the material presented is suitable for their student’s use or even their own. This reviewer would never ask you to present material for use that you feel is inappropriate. I make note of these possible things when I can to help you make an informed decision about the product.

To my great surprise, I found on their website that an IPhone/IPod app is available for this study aid. Being Deaf and Blind, I was happy to see a lite or free version available for testing. That means this review will also go on my DeafBlind Hope blog to help DeafBlind people know what can help them. To add to my excitement, I found they did a great job making the app accessible to braille output for the most part. Everything in the “Study Words” section works fine with braille. The flash cards work well too except for the tap to hint section which can be selected on a braille display, but because the hint is only an image, the braille display goes blank. This would definitely confuse a person needing the braille. They might not know what to do next or think the program closed or locked up. I suggest that they add a text hint here such as a synonym or a sentence using the word or a text description of the image that would help with the word. In the quiz section, the main page is accessible. The buttons work and even the dial a word section which is more of a graphic is accessible. You can scroll through the list to see which words will be on the list and change the list from the “don’t know yet” list and the “mastered” list for continued practice on all the words. Once you click the start quiz button and change to the first word on the test, the app loses it on accessibility. The home and back button work fine. You also can see which word you are being quizzed on next, but the multiple check boxes of possible definition answers only shows on the braille display as “btn” which means button.  You cannot read what the choice is at all. You can check with the select button on the display, but you don’t get any response as to right or wrong as you should. You only get the text “dmd btn” which is demand button. I also couldn’t figure out how to move forward in the quiz by braille display either. You do a one finger flick on the touch screen. That isn’t always easily understood by people who are totally deaf and blind, so a next button should be added. These are easy fixes for the app developers, though. I am hopeful that this will be updated soon because I am sure the developers would like to make their app fully accessible. I am going to email them with my suggestions as their app boldly asks for which is a positive point for the developers. They obviously want to get suggestions for improvement. When it is, I can tell you that the app will be worth buying even at $9.99 if you are blind or deafblind because it covers 1000 words. It is already a great app for other users including some special needs students.

 

Between the book, the audio files, the video files, and the IPhone/IPod app, VocabAhead SAT Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos, and MP3s should have everyone covered. To find out more, go to http://vocabahead.com. This neat study aid can also be purchased easily at Amazon.com for $12.95 in book form. A DVD version is also available for $24.99. This could be a fun way to a higher SAT® or ACT® score or just to get a little smarter.

 

I was provided a free product to write this review. I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Read Full Post »


Touch Points

By Renée Walker

How many of us have had problems getting what we need due to communication issues? Despite laws that are in place to help equalize education, entertainment, legal, and medical worlds, how many of us still have trouble accessing the world around us? In this rural area that I live, I have encountered enough problems to last me two lifetimes. Growing up hard of hearing as a child to deaf as a teen and young adult, I thought I knew plenty about the problems caused by the inability to fully communicate. When my vision problems became an issue that couldn’t be ignored or overlooked, I just didn’t realize what I was about to face. Coping with the loss of vision and eventually independence was hard enough. I just didn’t know that I would have a struggle just to see a doctor and be able to understand and act on my own behalf.

I think my first clue was that people didn’t know what a guide dog was at all. Stores, banks, schools, churches, and malls all refused to let me enter with my guide dog. It was a repeated effort of education with the help of my guide dog school, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. that finally seemed to ease the travel issues over the first couple of years. As I learned to be more independent through travel and then after gaining more control from study at Helen Keller National Center, I found that I needed to face some serious health issues. I had been seeing doctors before for my chronic issues, but now things had changed. Needing a tactual interpreter to communicate my health problems with a physician became an absolute necessity. None of my preparation learning about communication cards, interpreting services, getting used to discussing private issues through a stranger helped me to cope with the shock that the medical agencies here didn’t seem to know anything about interpreters much less the American Disabilities Act. I tried to educate each doctor with a copy of the law and a list of interpreting agencies for the area which weren’t many and only a couple of interpreters from those agencies comfortable enough to agree to tactual interpreting. Every doctor’s office I had and new ones that I tried to go to for new or worsening symptoms or to replace doctors were now refusing to provide me with an interpreter. My procedure was to call and ask for an appointment. I didn’t have a problem getting an appointment, but after arranging a day and time, I would then state that I needed a tactual interpreter. Many times I had to explain what an interpreter did and then what a tactual interpreter did. I would explain how they went about finding one and requesting the service. I told them how they were responsible for the fees, but ADA law allowed them to take it off under operating expenses or overhead. I always offered to mail or fax the information to them and mentioned telephone numbers of agencies that they could call and ask questions. I also referred them to the website for the National Association for the Deaf (NAD). I would then say you can call me back, or I will call you back when you have had time to research your responsibilities under the law. I can’t remember a single one calling me back first. I would call them and ask again. This would usually go on for weeks before they would finally say, “We won’t provide an interpreter for you.” My initial contacts with NAD a year and a half ago resulted in nothing. They wouldn’t return my emails even though I knew the email address was correct. A few months ago, I tried again. I was pleased when someone did respond and was very helpful. They made phone calls to all the doctors’ office in question and were amazed how adamant most were in not caring if they were in violation of law. NAD sent letters from their attorney informing them of their responsibilities. One doctor’s office relented and now provides me an interpreter. The others still refused to do so. NAD felt the situation was bigger than they could handle and put me in touch with a group of attorneys at an advocacy center that is now in helping me with my problems. NAD continues to follow the situation. My current attorney has repeated the initial steps of phone calls and letters to try and solve the situation with the least amount of litigation as possible. The doctors’ offices in question have still refused to provide an interpreter for my appointments. The center is still acting on my behalf. I am still working to better educate the medical agencies in my area on the needs of deaf and deafblind patients regarding communication issues and their rights to be informed and make decisions. The fight goes on as my medical issues continue to deteriorate.

You might now ask if I contacted local and/or state agencies and private organizations for the deaf on this issue. I contacted them before I contacted NAD the first time. Most of my attempts to call were not returned. At one agency, I was told that in this area the deaf usually choose to use family members and friends who could sign or otherwise help them to communicate. The doctors’ offices in the area have come to expect this. This organization and others who mentioned similar reasoning felt that it was their responsibility to support what the Deaf community desired. I think back to when I could still see, and I went to the doctors without help. It wasn’t always easy because I had to keep asking the staff to look at me or repeat, but I didn’t know ASL. I had heard of ADA, but only knew about wheelchair ramps, braille signs, and hearing aid compatible phones. That was because I saw them around me in the environment and knew it was because of the ADA law. No one ever offered to explain that it meant more than that including the deaf services area of Vocational Rehabilitation Services that helped me get into college or later go to Helen Keller. Would I have requested accommodations if I had been informed? I don’t know, but it would have been nice to have had the choice to consider.

A final aspect to this situation that I would like to pose is the argument that the Deaf and some DeafBlind would rather use family members and friends. Of course, that is their choice, and I would not want to force anyone to do anything that would make one feel uncomfortable. Again, though, I would want to make sure that choice is an informed one. It has been shown that untrained family members or friends often do not understand the medical terminology and processes well enough to accurately translate to ASL or convey it most any other way. They often are too close to the patient and wish to shield them from pain and fear if the news is negative. Others may see the patient as more of a child and try to make the decisions for the patient. Or, often it is simply a matter of feeling overwhelmed with the information being given and trying to convey it to the patient that friend or family member resorts to, “I will tell you everything later”. If the patient is fully aware of these issues and is ok with that then fine, but education should be in place to make them aware of the possibilities and help the family members and friends be aware, too. Most of this would not be a conscious attempt to deceive just blinded my love and concern. In addition, the other side to this coin is the doctors’ offices are at risk as well. There have been cases of a patient making appointments and not requesting accommodations for communications such as for an interpreter and then suing the doctor’s office for not providing one. The patients win the case because the ADA law is clear. Having a policy of asking a deaf or deafblind patient if there are any communications issues and any modifications that they need and providing them upon that request could help protect them from such possible litigation. I have heard and read many opinions on all sides of this issue regarding providing interpreters in medical settings. The ADA law exists to protect deaf rights, and it was written to prevent overdue hardship on medical providers. Everyone needs to educate themselves and others. Litigation should not be needed for deaf and deafblind to receive proper medical care and understand that care given. The patient should not also have to fear that the medical provider might retaliate in poor care once forced to provide the accommodations for communication.

Advocacy is the key here with education and awareness being the preferred method. The law is there for us to use if needed. No one should have to have their medical issues ignored or medical decisions forced on them. We all need to work together on this and other issues that face us. Since there have been others asking about similar issues, I wanted to share my experiences in hopes of helping others.

If you have questions or comments, you may email me at rkwalker@wynfieldca.org or write me in braille at 143 Williamson Dr., Macon, GA 31210.

Read Full Post »


I am Associate Editor of Good Cheer, the international DeafBlind magazine. I write a column called Touch Points in each issue. Here I will post my columns after they are published in Good Cheer.

Touch Points

By Renée Walker

A Day at the Movies

 I had looked forward to this day for several months, since I had heard the opening day announcement. Even as old as I am, I love the stories about a young boy whose mother gave her life protecting his. I had read many of the books in print until my eyes finally gave out. I then began learning braille and finding these books printed in braille gave me the incentive to work hard. Going to see the movie based on the 6th book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was going to be difficult at best. I knew that I wouldn’t understand much with almost no hearing even with an FM system and a very small peripheral field and blurry acuity. I really wanted to try though because I had enjoyed the first couple of movies with my vision. We searched for a theater that provided closed captions or descriptive audio. I had never seen any of this technology and wasn’t quite sure how it worked, but I was hopeful. We finally found a theater that provided both of those technologies. The theater was almost a hundred miles away in South Atlanta and called AMC Southlake Pavilion. My wonderful husband agreed to take off work to take me. We didn’t understand how to figure out what movie was currently shown using the technology or times or anything actually, so we just picked a day and drove up there early in the morning expecting to have to get tickets for a particular showing and go shopping until time. For me, it was worth it.

The day finally arrived. We loaded up Joey and ourselves and drove the miles to the theater. We arrived to find that the Harry Potter movie was not available with the technology at that time. I was disappointed, but I kept my chin up. My husband talked with the manager, Janine, who carefully explained to him the workings of the web site and the technology in general, so we could plan better next time. Since Harry Potter would not be scheduled for the accessible theater, we decided to come back later that morning and see it anyway. I wasn’t interested in the movie playing in the accessible theater. I don’t know what all my husband talked about with Janine, since I couldn’t understand anything and Scott doesn’t know sign except for trying to learning Fingerspelling. Later, he said that he had just mentioned how I missed the movies. Janine got on the phone and talked to someone for a few minutes finally saying, tell someone to swap out the current movie in the accessible theater for Harry Potter. Scott turned to me and explained the gist of what was happening. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest with excitement. I tried hard to fight the tears welling up in my eyes, but the tears betrayed my emotions as a tear rolled down my cheeks. Scott and Janine looked at me. Scott asked if I was ok. I said happy is all. Scott told Janine how so much has been a fight since I lost my sight as well as being deaf. Everything from taking my guide dog into restaurants to seeing doctors with interpreters to getting accessible technology to help me work and communicate has been a battle. It was a wonderful feeling to have someone be so nice to me. I thanked Janine, and she touched my shoulder gently. It was easy to tell without sight and sound that she was saying she was so glad to help me. Joey went straight to her and wagged his tail. Janine leaned down, and he slurped his tongue across her face. He doesn’t do that while working usually. Scott was quickly apologizing, but Janine said she loved it, and she rubbed Joey’s ears.

A short time later, we were sitting in our movie chairs with popcorn loaded with butter and cokes sitting in the arms’ cup holders. I had one cup holder filled with a flexible stand with a tinted but see through piece of plastic attached extending in front of my face. I also had the descriptive audio headphones. As the movie started, it took a few moments to adjust the plastic just right for me to see the captions with my field of vision and to get the headset adjusted. It took a few more to figure a way to shift from the screen to the captions to keep up with the action. I finally decided to turn on my FM because the headset wasn’t helping at all. My FM had never worked to pick up anything in my area theaters, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try since I was some place new. I touched the buttons to turn the FM on and press the correct order to change the frequency when suddenly noise. I actually jumped. I couldn’t quite understand words, but I kept concentrating until a few words began to come through the crackles. It was obviously the description of what was going on the screen.  I relaxed and focused my eyes on the plastic screen and scanned until I found the captions. By concentrating on the noise in my head and the fuzzy letters forming in front of me, I actually began to get the story. Of course, it helped to have read the story before. I was totally amazed. I was actually enjoying a movie for the first time in ten years thanks to some wonderful technology.

As we left the theater, I was walking on air happier than I have been in a while. Janine met us out front and asked how I enjoyed the movie, but said is your face evidence of your enjoyment? Scott translated, and I nearly jumped up and down signing and speaking, “Yes! Yes!” I thanked her again, and she said, “No problem. You and Joey have just made my day! It is so good that the equipment really helps to bring a little fun to people.” We left, and I thanked God for my blessings. It is nice to know that this journey with DeafBlindness won’t always be full of battles.

Read Full Post »


Many people have asked how can they help WCA’s DeafBlind Hope program when the economy is just too tough for them to donate money. Well, there are many ways, but a few come instantly to mind. You can search the internet for us, shop online for us, or clip coupons for us. You simply do what you do every day, but you can do it to help DeafBlind Hope.

Instead of Googling, as it has begun to be called, you can search using YaHoo!’s GoodSearch engine. You search the internet, and GoodSearch donates to DeafBlind Hope. Go to GoodSearch.com, and choose Wynfield Christian Academy as your charity. Then search away. WCA’s DeafBlind Hope gets funds for every search you to do. You can also download a toolbar for GoodSearch for Firefox or Internet Explorer to make your searching more convenient. Get your knowledge on by searching the internet for WCA’s DeafBlind Hope.

If you like to shop online, you can find many of your favorite stores on GoodShop.com. If you shop in your favorite store through GoodShop, the store will donate a percentage of your purchase to Wynfield Christian Academy. Just go to Goodshop.com and click on your favorite store. You are then sent to your store’s website, but with a code attached to your entry that notifies the store that you are shopping for WCA. Shopping online is easier and often cheaper than in a brick and mortar store. Now do your shopping online, and help a DeafBlind Hope client live more independently.

If you don’t search the internet much or shop online, you can also help by just going to the grocery store. We all have to go to the grocery store some time. WCA is enrolled in two programs from companies such as Campbell’s and Pillsbury where they will donate to WCA if you buy their products. You simply clip and save coupons from these products. After you have saved a few coupons, mail them to WCA. We sort them and redeem them for cash and merchandise. The two programs are Labels for Education sponsored by Campbell’s companies and Box tops 4 Education sponsored by Pillsbury and General Mills companies. You can find out more from their web sites: Labels for Education and Box Tops 4 Education. I understand that many of you, like me, are budget conscious and buy generic. However, check out the brand names for the products you buy and see if any participate in these two programs. If so, just consider if you can afford the extra cents for a good cause.

DeafBlind Hope is definitely a worthy cause. I invest my life in it, so I know. The DeafBlind are the least helped population whose expenses far outweigh many disabled’s expenses. You can do a lot to help a DeafBlind person get the training and equipment they need to be independent and productive. WCA’s DeafBlind Hope program strives to keep zero administrative costs to allow all donations to go to the clients who need them. You or your organization can help in many ways. Many have held unique fundraisers for our purposes such as t-shirt sales, craft festivals, music festivals, etc. You can find out more at DeafBlind Hope. Whether you search the internet, shop, clip and save, or whatever other ideas you can think up, you will be helping some truly wonderful people. Regardless to how you help, you can also pray for our mission, and spread the word about DeafBlind Hope.

Links for Eligible Products
Labels for Education

Boxtops 4 Education

Mail coupons to:
Wynfield Christian Academy
143 Williamson Dr.
Macon, GA 31210

Read Full Post »


Well, today we got up all excited. We did a morning walk around the campus after breakfasts. Then we headed in to wait our turns for hearing our dog’s medical records. I brushed Joe while I waited. Then Kate came into my room and read every single word of the paperwork. Little Joe had all his vaccinations, neutering, and dewormings with no problems. The school tried to implant a microchip for possible identification as a backup to tatoos and tags. It was noted that Joe’s body rejected his twice, so they gave up. Little Joe doesn’t have a microchip. Oh well, I will just hang on to him even tighter. I was given all meds, information, etc. on how to care for him and when to take him to the vet for check ups. The school recommends every 6 months for a working dog because of the extra stress the body is under. That won’t be a problem.
After lunch, we stayed in the dining hall as Kate and Katie read all the access laws, contract, and other information in our take home pack. It took all afternoon with all of the questions. Finally, late in the afternoon just after supper, I had my turn. Kate came into my room, read the entire contract again for me. Asked if I had any questions, and with excited hands, I signed my name where Kate placed her finger on the paper for me to follow. That was that. Little Joe was all mine. Kate left and Joe and I had a victory dance in the room. He was so excited that I was so excited. We just hung out in everyone’s rooms back and forth the rest of the night. Little Joe and I put out the lights about midnight.
Oh, he is mine!!

Read Full Post »


We went to the DTC and ate lunch there. We did routes in the neighborhood. We took much longer routes and different ways than before. Joe began very cautious and did a good job most of the way. We worked on helping Joe learn my height today with the overhangs. If something neared my face, we stopped and said, “No, watch.” He only took a few tries before he was catching it all. Good boy, Joe! After a long, hot, but good route, we arrived back at the DTC for lunch.

After lunch, we returned to the school. Staff had a meeting at 1:30. We were free until feeding time. Joe and I returned to our room and read a book. At 3:00 Joe got fed and medicated for his ear. His ear is looking much better. Afterwards, Nancy went to work with Trigger and everyone else disappeared, so Joe and I went back to read our book and cuddle.

We had lecture at 4:30. Kate talked about dog booties, dangers of fertilizers to our dogs’ feet, not going to dog parks, and flexileashes not being approved. You do not want to lose a dog worth 40,000 dollars. Simple. Know where your dog is at all times.

After supper, we sat around and talked until I got on with Scott a little after 7:00 pm. We talked for a while and then I retired to get a shower and finish my book while cuddling with Joe.
This has been a very good day. Kate praised us all. She says we are all showing confidence and increased happiness. We really look like we are enjoying ourselves. I know I am. I left Brian, my older son, a birthday message. He is 25 today. Now I am going to turn out the light and rest for a new day. Tomorrow we sign the papers for our dog to make it official. Joe will truly be mine. Wow! That is super! Good night.

Read Full Post »


I was awaken early today and had no problem getting to breakfast on time after taking all my meds. Joe awoke in a playful mood, so I had played with him before I left.

In the cafeteria, people dragged in, but someone had known it was my birthday. The students and staff sang “Happy Birthday” to me.

At 9:00 we went the mall. Katie worked with me today because it was Kate’s day off. Katie took me into Dillards to the escalator. I had not been on an escalator since I lost my sight, so she took me on it a few times to get used to the feel. She took Joe on it a couple of times to see how he reacted. He actually seemed to like it. Katie then led us both through. You stand on the metal piece and make sure the dog is lined up and close to you. You talk to your dog in happy voices saying Ok, go. You get your feet placed on the edge of the step so you can tell when it starts to go down. You put your hand on the rail ahead of you to feel when it starts to level out. When it does, you again say ok, get ready! Go! The thing is to go quickly making sure your dog has plenty of room to get off. The escalator can be very dangerous. If the dog is too skittish, there will be a restriction about you can’t take the dog on escalators. Joe and I jumped on the escalator doing it just fine. Joe was wagging his tail and smiling. Coming off was just as easy. It was obvious that Joe and I were having fun. We did the up and down several times each. Finally it was time to load up. The trainers, Katie and Rick, let me go back by myself to the other end of the mall. They hung way back. Joe and I meandered around, but easily found the door out back near our seat.

We then went to the DTC and ate lunch there. We did routes in the neighborhood. We took much longer routes and different ways than before. One street had trash and limbs piled along the street as it was garbage pick up day. He was a little distracted at first. In fact he was so distracted that at full speed he let me plow into a lamp pole. I said, “No!” firmly and snapped and released the leash backwards with my left hand. I then touched the pole and said, “Watch!” After that, he watched everything more cautiously.

We arrived back at the center in time to feed the dogs. At 4:00 we did obedience. We worked on stay and recall with finish which is stay the dog, leave it, and then after a bit tell it to come requiring it to sit directly in front of you facing you, then you say heel, and the dog goes to the left side and sits. Joe does very well with this. They tried to call him, and he wanted to go, but he just wagged his tail.

Supper at 6:00 was very good. Rudy fixed Hamburger steak smothered in onions and gravy, sweet peas, and garlic potatoes with special spices. I was in heaven. I got 3 chocolate chip cookies for dessert. They were sugar free, but you would never know it. Everybody sang to me again. It was very sweet.

After supper, we worked on a cd presentation for all the students. I gave them all my pics that I have taken and so did Nancy. We then added some more by doing a walk around the campus to make the ending shots. It was fun. Then we spent a while uploading pictures to the PC for Darlene to work on while we are sleeping.

I talked to Scott for a little while at 9:00. Then returned to my room and read a book and cuddled with Joe until about ll:45. I think I have had a very good birthday. I certainly have the best birthday present you could get: a companion, a guide, a new life. On that thought, I will say Good night! Good night, my little buddy, Joe.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: