The LORD Alone Opens the Eyes of the Blind, PART 4
Using Visually Impaired Mobility Techniques

After some basic training and exercises in a mostly controlled setting inside buildings, the instructor moved us to the environs of neighborhoods and light business districts. There are some new challenges for cane travel in an outdoor setting since the cane can only detect obstacles from the waist down. It is important especially to protect the eyes, because over hanging trees or shrubs can inflict injury without warning. I always wore my eyeglasses for protection when I trained outside even though they did not significantly improve my distance vision. Another aspect of the specialized mobility training was to blend whatever remaining reliable residual eyesight with the techniques of cane travel. That blending actually became problematic for me since, I had poor central vision with slightly better peripheral, very slow adjustment to bright sunlight or entering shaded areas, and astigmatism. My night vision was very poor, and correct interpretation of my fragmented visual information could be disrupted if I became rattled. Trying to balance use of my ever decreasing eyesight with the newly acquired cane technique required continual re-adjustments.

Well, the first thing that grabbed me between the waist and the shoulders, as I approached a street corner with a traffic light, was a pole mounted control box. While I was shaking off the collision, my mobility instructor came up quickly behind me and said, "I hate those things! I was too far behind you to give you warning." As I rubbed the area of impact on my body, I simply quipped, "You ... hate those things? I don't exactly like them myself!" He then told me that one good thing about them is that you can hear the relays clicking inside and have some clue as to when the traffic light is changing. But it is always important to listen to the traffic pattern. So, when the light changed and the parallel traffic started to move, I preceded to cross the street. About half way across the intersection, a turning car whizzed just barely in front of me and was promptly pursued by a patrol car for failing to yield to a pedestrian. What a comfort to know that if I had been flattened by the car, perhaps the offending driver would have been apprehended! The police capture was described to me by the mobility instructor after I had somehow safely reached the other corner. Does the Christian walk ever seem this way to some of God's children? There are many unexpected events in life that will happen to the Christian, even though our heavenly Father walks much closer to us than any mobility instructor, and He could prevent any calamity that will not be used for his glory. "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go: I will guide you with my eye." (Psalms 32:8 AKJV) Could anything be better than that guidance for anyone, even for those with no eyesight impairment?

Though it becomes a recognized fact through training that the cane cannot provide information about obstructions above the waist, failure to properly use it can leave hazards undetected even at the feet of the blind traveler. For practice, I was assigned to enter a certain bank branch and obtain a free brochure from a teller. As I entered the building, I did not anticipate the first step down, and my momentum carried me very rapidly down the next five or six steps. I was able to maintain my balance, and took a few moments to regain my composure at the bottom landing, before moving on into the business area of the large open room. From the outside of this modern building with large glass panels all around the entrance, my very nearsighted vision had convinced me this was a simple grade-level building and I didn't use the cane to full advantage to find those steps going down. Over confidence is a common pitfall in many circumstances of life, and the Christian is not immune from such an attitude. These are the times when we need the mercy of the Lord. Psalms 18:36 "Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip." Then we need to return to the reliable guidance He provides in His Word. . Psalms 119:1 "ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD." Psalms 119:105 "NUN. Thy word [is] a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalms 119:133 "Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me."

Near the very end of the mobility training period, a trip to downtown Cincinnati was planned involving riding a bus down, a couple of specified stops with verification, and a return bus trip back to the rehab center which was about seven miles from downtown. After lunch the mobility instructor said he would see me back at the Center in a few hours. I talked with some of the food service staff a little too long, and missed the bus I was supposed to take to begin the exercise. Since I didn't know how to contact the instructor, and I didn't know the bus schedule, I went to a phone booth and called a cab. The cab ride got me downtown before the bus I had missed arrived, and I followed the prescribed route for several blocks adjacent to Fountain Square in the Queen City. I went into the Carew Tower, and even before I could locate the elevator on my own, a man who was a stranger to me asked if I needed anything. I told him I needed to go to the eighth floor, so he quickly grabbed me by the arm and led me over to an open elevator, pressed the correct button, and said good-bye. I picked up the pre-arranged brochure at an office there, then went back to street level and walked about a block and a half to buy a sweat band at a specific sporting goods store. I caught my return bus and was back at the Center ahead of the mobility instructor. When he arrived, he was mildly upset, and said he was on the bus that I was supposed to ride downtown and I never boarded. I told him how I had missed the bus to downtown, but that I had completed the rest of the exercise and the sweatband was on the desk in his office. After retrieving the sweatband and receipt, and giving the situation some thought, he decided that the exercise had produced the desired demonstration of independent travel. Later there was a trip to the Greater Cincinnati Airport to get a sense of the size, layout, and sounds of a typical airport setting. The mobility training was a major component of rehab that I needed to better function as a blind person, but there were some other elements that would prove to be very useful with continued development over the coming months and years; and the most important change of having my spiritual eyes opened was yet to come.

PREVIOUS in the series
NEXT in the series

Published 7 August 2007