The LORD Alone Opens the Eyes of the Blind, PART 3
Elements of the Sight Loss Rehab Program

In 1974 when I entered the rehab program specifically designed for people who had become blind as adults, I had been told there would be training for Braille, touch typing, mobility with a cane, adaptive independent living techniques, and regular counseling sessions to aide in the necessary adjustments. None of this particularly thrilled me because I didn't want to be blind, but I knew of no better choice at this juncture for me. The lead Braille teacher had been born blind, and she had a university master’s degree. She was a very pleasant person with a keen intellect and a good sense of humor, and she could work with two or three students at the same time, reading there training books upside down from her vantage point as she helped us in our early efforts to read by touch. This young woman impressed me greatly in the way she seemed so satisfied with life, and she was even married to a blind man! The Braille instruction was such a basic approach of learning a few letters, then combining them to make words, and gradually building to simple sentences. It was like experiencing early elementary school again. We were each given our own training books so we could study outside of class. Gradually we also used a slate and stylus for making our own Braille letters, and this was an interesting experience because in order to make the raised dots on the paper, it is necessary to turn the paper over and write (punch one dot at a time in each cell) from right to left. Needless to say, writing did not come too early because it could be very confusing to think of a mirror image of each character in order to emboss it onto the paper.

Later we learned how to use a Perkins Brailler which had only six typing keys along one parallel row, pressed in simultaneous combinations as necessary to make any combination required in the six dot pattern of a Braille cell. The Brailler embossed up through the back side of the paper, so it was possible to check the letters tactually immediately after making them. The Braille was for our own reading and writing to give us direct access to words again, and touch typing was to provide a means of providing a readable form of our words for sighted people to read, even if we made some typos, depending on how proficient we wanted to become. Hunt and punch was not an option for most of the typing students since we could not see the markings on the keys, and it was likewise not necessary to cover them to ensure that the student memorized the keyboard layout. A sighted instructor was needed for this class since this was prior to all the synthetic speech access technology of our current time.

"Talking Book" machines (record and cassette tape players with variable speed controls) were also available for listening access to certain transcribed print material. This was all new territory for me, and I had not previously known any blind people to hear of their personal experiences in everyday activities.

When we become Christians, there are alternative techniques that we need to learn for better understanding of the Lord through the Bible, and the way He would have us to conduct ourselves. "12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:12-14 AKJV)

Some become Christians at a young age with their Bible learning parallel to other academic development, but others such as myself, need to do a lot of study having been converted as an adult. A scholarly study of the Bible without eyes of faith will not reveal the true character of our Lord, and the path He desires for our lives. But, because a Christian has a personal relationship with the author of scripture, we can go directly to Him for a more complete understanding. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraides not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5 AKJV). These things of the Spirit were still indiscernible and unattainable to me while I was in sight loss rehab, as I was not yet a Christian.

There were two mobility instructors to work among the clients, and both had specialized university level training for mobility. This included course work on various physiological and psychological aspects related to adults learning to travel using a sighted guide; or cane technique , sounds, and any other forms of information to compensate for the information no longer available with sight. Using a sighted guide effectively involves both parties understanding the techniques to be employed, and then requires a responsible guide and the trust of the one being guided. My instructor explained how I was to hold his arm at the elbow, and the way he would use both spoken tips and body movement to let me know of upcoming changes such as steps or narrow passage ways. We started walking slowly inside a building with stairs and various doorways, and as the training progressed, the speed increased and the instructor would try to keep a general conversation going so my mobility technique had to be more on a subliminal level as I tried to participate in the conversation. "He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalms 23:3 AKJV)

"5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6 AKJV)

We left the training center building and moved to a local school for a layout UNFAMILIAR to me. I trained with a blindfold so I would need to travel with no sight at all to develop the maximum benefit and confidence of cane travel in the event that I would someday lose all residual eyesight. The cane length is selected to match the stride of each client and it is to be held in the middle of the body at the waist, and moved alternately from right to left so the tip will fall on the surface in the position of the next footfall. The cane should land on the surface with enough force so as to produce a sound, and to allow tactual feedback about the texture of the surface (carpet, hard surface, grass, etc.). The instructor gave me information about the hallway layout and that there would be just a few stairway steps at a given point, and a metallic conveyor belt in the floor at another point. He then left me and I could start as soon as I was ready. I collected myself after listening to the sounds around me, and then I took a few steps and ran into an open door that projected about halfway into the hallway at a right angle to the hall! The instructor was quickly back at my side, and said, "the cane doesn't always pick up every obstacle." Well now, there's a confidence builder! This then became a case in point of the importance of good orientation (familiarity) to the surroundings in the travel areas. I completed the remainder of the mobility exercise without further incident. I did comment to the instructor that as I approached a wall at the first "T" hallway intersection, I felt a tingling sensation on my face and upper chest. He said research had indicated that we can hear a reflected sound and our body automatically tenses for the impending impact. Another confidence builder? -- well, maybe or maybe not. The combination of some early success in the training, and the developing relationship of respect and friendship with the instructors were beginning to give me some comfort in this new setting. The Lord was also working in my heart in a quiet way that was not even evident at this point, but a much deeper comfort was ahead for me. "For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4 AKJV)

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Published 7 August 2007