Noise Is usually Good

 

I’ve focused on walking around our homes or living areas.
The strategy is to start with our mental map of our area. It’s not a one and
done kind of thing. We continue to improve our mental map by adding and
correcting the details. The more time we spend in the area, the more detailed
and the more accurate our mental map gets.

 

I’ve also pointed out that a good strategy for moving around
is to get into the habit of walking from known point to known point. I call
those points "landmarks." The idea is to take a moment to make sure
you are facing the next landmark before starting to walk. Now walk directly
toward that landmark. In your home, this strategy is important, but once you go
outside, it becomes critical. Practicing at home is your best bet for safely
mastering the technique.

 

If options were limited to following our mental maps,
walking around would be difficult but doable. The good news is that we can do
better than simply relying on our mental maps. I mentioned paying attention to
the floor. Notice when you step on a rug or when the floor changes from carpet
to wood. The idea is that changes in the floor surface become additional
landmarks on our mental maps. The same notion will apply outside when the
surface where we are walking changes.

 

I also mentioned touching things. Keeping our hands up helps
us touch things before banging into them, but also helps us identify landmarks
in our environments such as chairs, walls and appliances.

 

The added tip here is listening. Along with touching and
feeling, your home or living area makes sounds. Where I live, the furnace just
turned on. I also hear the ice maker in the refrigerator. Different areas make
different sounds, letting me know a little more about where I am at any
particular time. The traffic sounds are outside in front of the house, the
birds are chirping outside the back door, and on and on. My living environment
is not loud but is noisy, and yours likely is too. Again, listening becomes
even more important when we leave our familiar environments and venture into
unfamiliar outside and inside spaces.

 

Here’s what I think is an especially useful tip. Leave a
radio or TV playing whenever you are at home and awake. Along with being
auditory company, the sound is a consistent and continuous landmark that you can
use from most anywhere in your living area. I’ve done this for a long time and
am still surprised at times by how helpful the sound is, particularly when I
become momentarily disoriented now and then. If you don’t already do this, give
it a try.

 

A Head’s Up

 

I mention walking outside and in unfamiliar inside places.
The tips I include are minor and only intended to suggest a few things to keep
in mind.

 

Walking from place to place outside and in new places
without a helper who can see, requires a skill set that all of us who can’t see
need, but should only develop with the assistance of a qualified mobility
professional. Additionally, I don’t know any way to develop those skills
without learning how to use a white cane or guide dog.

 

Where you live and spend most of your time likely is doable,
whether you live in an apartment or on a farm. The key is that you have a good
mental map of the area and are aware of any risky areas or hazards. Also, when
you become disoriented – and you will – there is minimal risk of getting hurt.

 

I mentioned earlier that I don’t know how to use a white
cane. I’m a guide dog user. My current guide dog is my seventh, so I have been
trusting my mobility to a dog for a long time. Like most other strategies for
doing what we want to do without seeing, getting out and about by ourselves
requires high motivation, determination and practice and then more practice. On
any given day, it’s easier to just stay home. The important thing to know is
that going wherever you want to go is possible but requires skills only
acquired with the assistance of qualified mobility trainers.

 

Talk and
Tell

 

That’s it for the heads-up. Let’s get back to moving around
in our personal living space. I earlier suggested leaving a radio or TV playing
as an orientation device. The sound is a known landmark on our mental map. But
it gets even better. Here’s where the fun starts. Those of us who can’t see
have what sometimes seems like unlimited technology out there to help us do
what we want to do.

 

Does thinking about all that technology get you excited, or
does it cause you to shrug and turn away? If technology is something that
interests you, you are ready to ramp up your skill set for doing what you want
to do. If instead, you aren’t interested and don’t think technology is for you,
you have made a life altering decision, although you may not know you are
making it. You have decided to be satisfied with the status quo. You already
have all the help you need or want, to do what you do, and just leaving things
as they are is sufficient for you. – No problem. It really is your choice.

 

Sure, I’ll be getting to cell phones and computers; but for
starters, I’m very impressed with the Amazon Echo and the Google wireless
speaker. You need the little speaker for either. I suspect you already have one
or the other. The cool part isn’t so much the gadget, but rather the assistant
that talks to us. For Amazon’s Echo, she is Alexa, and for the Google gadget, I
call him the Google Guy.

 

We’ll come back to both devices from time to time, but for
now, let’s get back to walking around our living areas. Alexa and the Google
Guy are great orientation helpers. Since I know where they are located in my
living space, I can just ask anything – It doesn’t matter what I ask. – I get a
response and immediately am oriented to where I am in relation to the voice.
It’s better for me than a radio or TV, especially when I don’t want them on all
day.

 

You are undoubtedly getting the idea. Listening is, for
those of us who can’t see, our most important orientation device. If you can’t
see and also can’t hear, you have two serious issues; and I don’t know how to
help with the can’t hear issue. But there are people who can help. The first
step is to identify someone who can’t hear or knows how to help people who
can’t hear. They likely can head you in the right direction to get some
assistance.

 

There are a lot of sounds in our environments and ways to
add sounds. Radios and TVs are good but adding Alexa or the Google Guy may be
even better. Along with being great sources of information and entertainment,
both are excellent orientation devices. Ask anything, and you get a response.
Since you know where the device is in your environment, it’s easy to know where
you are in relation to it. They are better than a radio or TV, since they only
make noise when you want noise. The rest of the time, they are just waiting to
give you a little orientation prompt.

 

Is all of this easy peasy, a piece of cake? Definitely not.
Is it doable with time and effort? It is, to the extent you can develop the
skills and so long as you are willing to manage the frustration and hard work.
Developing the know-how and skills is tedious. Having the knowledge and skills
is totally terrific.