A DIFFERENT VIEW - Visiting another home a challenge to blind

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Have you ever thought what it might be like for a blind person to enter a house he has never been in before? This can be challenging, interesting, confusing and at times, even amusing, as a recent weekend visiting family might show.

First, I had to remember that the short, front sidewalk had one step, then about two feet farther, another three steps. Then, after walking across the porch, I needed to make another step up into the house. Though I had my guide dog, he really was as confused as I, at least in the beginning, as it was all new to him too. In time we almost learned where to go when wanting to reach certain rooms or chairs in a room but even on my last day there I had to be careful.

It was a modest two-story house with living room, dining room, kitchen and a bathroom on the main floor. At the top of the stairs was a small mostly open area with soft chairs and love seats for visiting or watching the television. From here for sighted folk it was easy to find any room, but this was not the case for me. First my guide had no idea where I wanted to go until he learned a few new words which, if I remembered I would repeat to him when I wanted his guiding. When reaching the second floor we had to make a right turn and go a little distance and then slightly right again and into the room we had. But to go to the other end of the upstairs hall we had to make the same first right turn but then make an almost 90 degree turn left to go down the hall to the other rooms. But without seeing. it can be difficult to know just what turn to make, especially when also walking around some chairs and love seats.

Of course there was one other problem; there was a lovely cat. She would cry and I would stoop and pet her for several minutes wile she purred loudly and showed her enjoyment. But when my guide approached, this loving cat hissed at him. Thus my guide did all he could to avoid her, even if this meant taking me the wrong way or into the wrong room.

Just when I began to find confidence in my ability to navigate this house, something would happen to douse this feeling. Take the time the cat was sitting near the top of the stairs and I wanted my guide to take me down the steps. First I found myself in another room; from the carpet beneath my feet I knew it was another bedroom. At the next stop, the tile floor told me I was either in the bathroom or utility room. Finally my guide decided to get me to the stairs but the cat remained in her place, obviously enjoying herself. Well my guide made a fast swing to the left that nearly had me down the steps before I had time to know they were there. Fortunately my hand found the banister and everything was fine.

Another time my guide took me to another person instead of into my room, that is until I corrected him; then he took me into the room.

Our last day there I felt almost sure of where I was when wandering around on the first floor: I had no problem once in the bedroom to find the bed or even get in the bathroom. But up to my last day I could still get lost in the short distance from the bedroom door to the head of the stairs, that is unless I could hear some noise coming from where I wanted to go. When going to the bedroom, if I paid attention and the blower in the utility room was running, I could usually find the right bedroom door.

So it can be interesting for a blind person to find his way around in a "strange" house. If you, sighted, have a blind person with you, give close attention to seeing that he can navigate safely. If you are blind, then know if you are confused as to where you should go or if you can't find the door, just remember you are not alone. But given time you will once again be able to navigate swiftly through the house without bumping too many corners.

Make the best of this day, enjoy life.

Ernie Jones, a registered nurse, retired early due to vision loss. He and his family moved here in 1986. He can be reached at theolcrow@charter.net or 529-9252.

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