How Do People with Low Vision… Use the Bus System?


Like a lot of students, I didn’t bring a car with me to college.  Unlike a lot of students, I didn’t bring a car because I have low vision and use a blindness cane to travel around.  Needless to say, I won’t be getting anywhere close to being behind the wheel of a car, so I have learned to master the public transportation available to me through my college and the city bus system.  Here are some techniques and applications that have helped me in learning to travel around my city.  Note that this post does not cover using the Metro, as that is for another day.

Bus fare

All public transportation affiliated with my college is free for students, and the college also has an agreement with the county that allows students to ride for free if they show their student ID.  Some counties also offer free or reduced fare for riders with disabilities.  For example, the MetroBus system in Washington, DC, allows people with disabilities to apply for getting reduced fare, though a doctor’s note is required.

Get on the right bus

The buses I ride on announce their location and the name of the line they are on- for example, blue line to shopping center.  I also check with the driver when I get on the bus to confirm where we are going.

Make friends with the bus drivers

I have gotten to know many of the drivers that work at my college, and they are awesome people!  Often times, they will wait for me if I’m not at the bus stop on time, and help me figure out where I am going if I’m unsure.  I’ve also had many awesome conversations with them about low vision and disability life.

NextBus

Some bus systems use the app NextBus, or something similar.  This app allows the user to track when a bus will be arriving, and adjusts for traffic delays as well.  My college uses this system for tracking their different buses, and the text enlarges well on my Android phone.

Phone numbers for transportation

I keep the following numbers in my phone in case there is an issue with transportation:

  • College transportation office- For checking bus arrival or other issues related to college buses
  • Bus company- in case it is after hours for the office or a bus is not tracking on NextBus
  • City transportation office- for assistance in locating bus or for transportation resources
  • Next stop checker- type in the bus stop number and hear when the bus will be arriving

Google Maps

Google Maps can provide directions to many locations via bus.  One of my favorite features is that once I am sitting on the bus, the app will show the bus moving on a map and let me know exactly when to get off.  In addition, it also shows a countdown to when the bus will be arriving at another stop.

Managing blindness cane

If I am riding on a bus affiliated with my college, I will collapse my cane and rest it in my lap.  If I am riding on any other bus, I will keep my cane upright, holding onto the grip of it.  This is a cue for the other riders and driver that I am visually impaired.

Orientation and Mobility

I did not receive any orientation and mobility (o&m) training for using the bus system, though it is available through the transportation offices or state department for the blind and visually impaired.  It isn’t just for the totally blind, either.  For sighted students who have difficulty using the bus system, some colleges may offer a seminar on how to use the bus system.

Where to go?

I mapped out a lot of the common places I frequent in the community, along with what buses to take.  For example, I wrote on my phone that I take the G bus to Target, the name of the shopping center I get off at, how long it takes to get there, how often the bus stops there, and what times usually work best.  I also write down the first and last time the bus departs from these locations.  The first couple of times I used the bus system, I took a friend with me, but now I am fairly confident navigating on my own for most places.

Places I recommend mapping out

Some of the places I recommend mapping out:

  • Pharmacy
  • Target/Walmart
  • Mall
  • Grocery store
  • Post office
  • Library
  • LensCrafters/other optician
  • Local restaurants (bonus if they have student discounts!)
  • Common student hangouts

 

I’ve been very grateful to live in an area with lots of public transportation options available.  One of the things I looked for when researching colleges was how easy it was to get off campus, and my school makes it very easy for students to travel around (for more on navigating campus, click here).  After all, no one wants to be stuck on campus or trying to figure out how to walk somewhere that’s two miles away.

How Do People With Low Vision…Go To The Theater?

Living in an area that has a high emphasis on the performing arts, I’ve been able to attend a lot of fascinating performances and become more cultured. Comedy groups, dances, operas, plays, symphonies, and other events frequently stop by my area, and I love to attend. Here are some of my tips for attending these types of performances with low vision and photosensitivity.

Check performer’s website

Prior to buying tickets, check the performer’s website to see what to expect. Are there a ton of strobe lights? What about special effects such as fog or fire? Use your best judgment to decide if this will be a worthwhile event to attend. For example, one of my friends had invited me to an event that can best be summarized as ninety minutes of strobe light, so we decided to plan something else instead.

Signs at the venue

Check for signs at the venue that warn about strobe or flashing lights, and before the performance, ask a staff member about flashing lights again. My family and I went to see Michael McDonald (who does not use strobe lights) and the opening act, Toto, kicked off their performance with ten seconds straight of strobe light. Because Michael McDonald did not use strobe lights, we were not notified about the use of the lights until it was far too late, and I had to leave two songs into the concert. We did get a refund, though.

Reserved seating

When booking tickets, ask if there is any specific seating for people with vision impairments. The performing arts centers I have attended had about twelve seats at each show reserved for guests with vision impairments and their companions. Under the ADA, it is illegal to be charged extra for requesting these seats. When I booked tickets for my two friends and I to see the Reduced Shakespeare Company, we were charged the student rate and had a note marked on our tickets that we needed the reserved seats. We sat in the second center row and had no problems with watching the performance.

Descriptive audio

Descriptive audio allows users to get a description of the movement and light effects on stage. This device proved to be worth its weight in gold when my friend and I went to Mummenschanz, a mime show. Some performances may require advance notice about descriptive audio if they use a live interpreter (Mummenschanz did), but a majority of groups have their own recordings that they provide, such as when my brother and I saw a special screening of Birdman.

Navigating the venue

At a performance for Giselle, I became separated from my group and found myself fairly lost . The venue I was at had given me a phone number for a staff member to call in case of a situation like this, and I was reunited with my group less than five minutes later. Writing down the phone number on the back of my ticket proved to be invaluable.

I love attending these performances and supporting the arts as much as possible. Hopefully these tips may help others to have same level of enjoyment as I do!

How Do People With Low Vision…Graduate From High School?

As the school year comes to a close, many seniors are working on preparing for graduation and ensuring everything goes smoothly. My family widely joked that they were surprised I was graduating, because I had faced so many challenges in school because of my disability and chronic illness. My brother also thought I would somehow fall so spectacularly when getting my diploma, that I would become a viral video. Luckily, my graduation went smoothly, even though I had an awful migraine the entire time. Here are my tips on how to make sure that graduation isn’t memorable for bad reasons. For reference, my graduation ceremony took place indoors, at a college, and I did not use a blindness cane or other mobility aids.

Share concerns with teachers

I remember being extremely worried that I would trip and fall off the stage while walking to get my diploma, or that I would fall down the stairs shortly after receiving it. I shared these concerns with a trusted teacher who was going to be helping with graduation, and they were able to warn me about the location of potential obstacles on the stage, as well as appoint a human guide to help me down the stairs.

When entering, keep your eyes down

As we walked into the ceremony, I kept my eyes down and searching for obstacles, as well as avoiding the onslaught of flashing lights that was all around me. A member of my friend’s family remarked that it looked like I was crying, to which someone else said “she’s not crying because she’s graduating, it’s because this entire room is like a giant migraine trigger.”  This wasn’t noticeable on the graduation film.

Request no photography

Since I get migraines from flashing lights, I requested that the photographer, who was taking pictures of each student as they received their diploma, please skip taking photos of me. It really helped with making sure I didn’t fall off the stage either.  My teacher and principal helped enforce this and kept reminding the photographer prior to graduation about not taking pictures.

Have someone else move the tassel

At some graduations, the tassel on the cap is moved to the other side while the student is on the stage, while at others it is moved after all other students had received their diplomas. For those who are supposed to move their tassel on the stage and are unable to do so, ask someone, such as the principal, to move it for you. This is especially helpful for students who may have a broken arm, have their hands full with a blindness cane or guide dog, or that are very paranoid about knocking off their glasses.

When tossing the caps

At the end of graduation, everyone throws their caps in the air to celebrate being done with school, and done with the ceremony. I didn’t throw my cap in the air, and instead chose to duck and make sure I didn’t get hit in the face. Also, there was tons of camera flashes going off at that moment, so the idea of opening my eyes was not appealing at all.

I didn’t attend any of the extra graduation events that my school put on, such as the baccalaureate celebration, because I had only attended that school for two years and didn’t know a lot of my fellow students. Plus, there would be more flashing lights. I’m fortunate that no one could tell that I had low vision or that I was in chronic pain as I walked across the stage to receive my diploma. Most importantly, I’m glad that I didn’t end up as some viral video because I had tripped over thin air.

How Do People With Low Vision…Attend Political Events?

Attending college right outside of Washington, DC has a lot of incredible benefits.  One of them is that a lot of politicians come to visit campus for campaigning, or just to talk about important issues.  At first, I would shy away from attending many of these events, simply because I was worried they would be inaccessible or filled with lots of commotion.  I’m glad I got over my reservations for attending, because I have been able to see many politicians including Tim Kaine, Michelle Obama, and John Kasich when they came to visit my college campus.  Most recently, I got to talk to Joe Biden one-on-one at his “It’s On Us” event, and even took a selfie with him!  Here are some of my tips for attending these events with a disability.

Be prepared to stand in line

For Michelle Obama, I was waiting in line for the better part of three hours, and still was rather far back in the line.  I found myself sitting down on the pavement often and doing stretches on my legs to make sure I didn’t go into spasms.  I’ve heard of some people requesting chairs from event staff to sit in while they are in line, but I have never done this.

Carry earplugs

These events can get extremely loud.  To protect your hearing, bring a pair of earplugs to wear so that you can drown out feedback or the person next to you who won’t stop talking about nothing.  I found this helped me concentrate on the speaker more.

Bring something to cover your legs if you are going in the morning

This advice would have been very helpful to me when I stood in line starting at 6 am.  Wear a pair of leggings while standing in line, if you are wearing a skirt or dress.  This will save you from massive chills.  If needed, bring a jacket/sweatshirt as well.  Even moderate temperatures can feel cold after a while.

No bags, if possible

Try not to bring any purses or other bags with you to the event.  These take a while to search, and you may miss out on the good seats.  If you must bring a bag, bring a crossbody/long strap bag with as few pockets as possible, and have them unzipped/unclasped prior to going through security.  For Tim Kaine and John Kasich, I didn’t bring any bags with me and got through very quickly.  For Michelle Obama and Joe Biden, I brought a crossbody bag with my iPad, since I knew I would be standing in line for several hours on end.

The metal detector

Sometimes, the metal detector can be weirdly sensitive.  I managed to set it off once with the combination of my blindness cane, metal in my jeans, and glasses.  I then was pulled aside and they used a portable metal detector on me to confirm that it was the combination of those three items that set it off, and not an individual item.  While security staff cannot take apart my blindness cane to search it, they do send it through the x-ray machine (while the cane is folded), along with my other items.

Ask for ADA seating

To accommodate guests that cannot stand for long periods of time or that require a sign language interpreter, all the events have a “reserved” section of chairs usually towards the front for people with disabilities.  Talk to security or other event staff when you get in line about reserving one of these chairs, and provide evidence of your disability if needed (I show my blindness cane, another one of my friends shows their medical bracelet, and another friend shows leg braces).  Legally, they cannot charge you extra for accessible seating.

Sit away from media

If too many flashing lights can trigger a migraine and you are sitting right in the line of fire with the media, ask for event staff or security to move you to an area where there are fewer flashing lights.  One of my friends who did this was moved towards the middle section, on the left side.

Keep your blindness cane unfolded

I found that there was very little space between me and other people at all of the events I attended.  Having my blindness cane unfolded meant that I could easily navigate and have something to lean on if I lost my balance.  This is also helpful to security, as if they have to assist you, you don’t have to try and unfold your cane while someone is squishing you.  Bonus- you can poke people with it.

Have a backup plan if you get separated

Every single event I’ve attended has ended with me getting separated from my friends.  Some of the circumstances have included security, people pushing us, me going to the ADA section, and other factors out of our control.  Since cell phones can die during the events, agree on a meetup location to gather at after the event.  We usually choose a nearby building.

If you get to meet the speaker

So far, the only speaker I have been able to meet was Joe Biden, and he was an incredibly kind person- seriously, he’s one of the nicest people I have ever met!  Right before he came over to talk to me, I alerted a Secret Service agent that I was using a blindness cane, and they made sure to pass along the information so that nothing awkward would happen.  Luckily, Joe Biden was very understanding and was more than happy to talk to me, saying that I looked like I would be a wonderful advocate for people with disabilities (something I am still smiling over!).

These events are so much fun, and I want to encourage as many people as possible to attend them. Show your support and gratitude for the disability legislation that has been passed, and support candidates that continue to influence it in the future.


 

 

 

How Do People With Low Vision…Go To Prom?

It seems like every year, a news story circulates about how a student with a disability and a student without a disability go to prom together.  It’s usually touted as something inspirational and kind, since the students with disabilities are perceived as not having many friends or being the outcasts of the school, and the student without a disability is considered a completely awesome person just because they are spending time with the other student.  I was talking about this phenomenon with a friend who jokingly asked if my prom date made the news for going to prom with the only girl with low vision in our school.  Thankfully, we were just treated like every other couple at prom, and had a blast.  Here are some tips that can help ensure everyone has a good time, without winding up as the center of attention for having a disability.

Make sure you can easily move around in your clothing choice

This applies more for the ladies, but make sure that it is easy to move around and walk without falling in whatever clothes that you pick.  At the two dances I attended in high school, many of the girls would take off their shoes the moment they got to the dance floor, but would often trip over their long dresses.  I chose to wear flats the entire evening so I had traction and reduced my risk of falling- as my date put it, I trip over enough flat surfaces as it is, so there is no need to put me in high heels.  If you use a blindness cane, make sure it can’t be caught in your dress or shoes either.

Taking pictures before the dance

Before the dance, the parents in our group took photos of all of us.  If it is an issue, make sure to notify them that you are sensitive to flashing lights so that they know to turn the flash off.  Also make sure that there are no obstacles in the picture that could pose an issue- for example, falling down a flight of stairs or into an open body of water.  Also, make sure the photographer tells you where the camera is located so you aren’t staring into space.

Have your date familiarize themselves with being a human guide

While I didn’t use a blindness cane in high school, I had a habit of frequently running into walls, people, objects, and generally missing visual cues.  Luckily, my prom date was my best friend who had gotten used to guiding me to all of my classes and alerting me to obstacles.  It never hurts to remind your date that you have trouble seeing and may need additional help navigating at prom.  Check out my post on how to be a human guide here.

Figure out the layout of the dance floor

At the beginning of the dance, my date described to me the location of the stairs leading to the dance floor, where we were sitting, the entrance/exit, and where poles were located.  While I never was further away than arm’s reach from them, this was still very helpful information to remember in the event we got separated.

Request that photographer avoid your area

If bright, flashing lights in your face are a concern, talk to school administration and the photographer prior to the dance, and remind them again at the dance, to avoid taking photos of you or pointing the camera directly in your face.  With the way that the dance floor was laid out, it was easy to avoid the flashing lights that were used, and the photographer was more than happy to accommodate our request.

If possible, ask for the event to not use blue and red flashing lights

This wasn’t a problem at my school, but a prom that another friend attended had pulsing red and blue lights that they described as seizure inducing- they had to sit out for a few minutes because of the lights, and they’re not even migraine or seizure prone.  This is another good thing to talk about with school administration, as many students can get migraines or seizures triggered by these lights.

Have a place to hide out

There was a period of time at prom where a lot of unfamiliar, loud music and dancing was taking place, and my prom group and I decided to go hide out in the lobby of the hotel we were at.  This helped prevent sensory overload and also gave us a break from dancing- since I couldn’t navigate to the tables near the dance floor easily, it was much easier for everyone to meet in the lobby.

Handling rude comments

I had a few people crack jokes about my date going to prom with someone who was visually impaired, and a few others asking me if I could even see what was going on.  My best advice for this is to ignore the weird comments, or just laugh them off.  It is not worth getting into an argument over.

Don’t be afraid to have fun!

Before the dance, I was very nervous about what to expect and was worried that something would go wrong.  Luckily, my date was a totally awesome person, and my prom group was filled with awesome people as well.  Prom is about spending time with your high school friends before you all graduate, and it’s a wonderful way to make memories.

I hope your prom is lots of fun!

 

How Do People With Low Vision…Go To Restaurants?

I went out to dinner with one of my friends several weeks ago.  When we got to the restaurant, they requested that we get a large print menu, so that way I would be able to read it.  The server looked at us like we were absolutely insane, and told us just to hold the menu closer to our faces.  My friend was very surprised that there were no large print menus, or even Braille menus available, and figured it would be illegal to not have these menus available.  Truth is, restaurants aren’t legally required to provide accessible menus, and I’m yet to encounter a large print menu anywhere.  Here are some of my tips on how I navigate restaurants.

Read the menu online

Websites tend to be very good about accessibility and have PDF files or simple webpages for the menu.  If I know where I am going ahead of time, I will browse the menu online and pick a few dishes I might want.  For websites with poor contrast, I copy and paste the menu into a notepad or word processing program and increase the font.

Bring assistive technology

I often bring my SmartLux or use a magnification app on my phone to read menus on the go. The only pitfall is that lighting conditions can be less than ideal, or the fonts may be difficult to read, so this is not always reliable.

Have someone read you the menu

This is most discreet at places where the menu is printed on boards high off the ground.  Have a staff member or friend read items off the menu.  Alternatively, you can take a picture of the boards and then zoom in on the text.

Order the same thing as your friend

I tend to order the same thing as my friend if I find reading the menu too tedious or too frustrating.  No one has ever found this weird, and we also haven’t worried about confusing plates or things like that.  Luckily, a lot of my friends are used to me doing this.  Sometimes they will even just scan the menu for me and order me something they think I will like.

Always get the same thing

While he doesn’t have low vision, my brother will often order the same thing every time he goes to a restaurant.  Be it a burger, macaroni and cheese, or pizza, he says he never has to worry about reading a menu or being disappointed by trying a new thing.  If you develop a rotation of a few dishes at a particular restaurant, you can order easily and not have to worry about menu drama.

Think about silverware

One of my friends has said that one of the most amusing things to watch is me attempting to cut food and cutting either very large pieces or weirdly small ones.  When possible, I try to order foods that aren’t difficult to eat or that can’t easily spill.  At a restaurant that my friend and I go to often, the server will make a note to cut food ahead of time so that way I am not so frustrated.

Advocate for accessible menus

With the aging population increasing and low vision becoming more common, the demand will only continue to grow for accessible menus.  Encourage your favorite restaurants to print out a large print copy of the menu, or even order a Braille copy.  All patrons should be able to order with dignity and order what they want.

How Do People With Low Vision…Go to the Movies?

Back in tenth grade, my favorite way to spend time with my friends was to go to the movie theater at the local mall.  Even though I had a sensitivity to flashing lights, quick camera movement, and couldn’t always see the screen very clearly, I never really missed out on anything that was going on in the film.  Here are some tools and tips I have for watching movies in theaters.

Descriptive audio devices

Free of charge to use, the descriptive audio devices are loaded with a description of what is going on in a scene and also warns viewers of flashing light sequences or fast movement about five seconds before it occurs on screen, and also announces when the sequence ends.  With this device, I was able to watch Captain America: Civil War the night it premiered.  At most movie theaters, the device can be requested at the ticket purchase window.  One important thing to note is that some movie theaters require you sign your name and give your address when you borrow one of these devices, and the form to sign it out often isn’t in large print.  This information is just to make sure you don’t walk off with the device.

Also, anyone who charges for the use of these devices, or refuses to provide them, is breaking the law, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title III, Section VI.

Online flashing lights guides

I have had great luck finding out if a movie has lots of flashing lights in it simply by googling the name of the movie along with any of these phrases:

  • flashing lights
  • epilepsy
  • strobe lights
  • migraine triggers
  • trigger warning

I don’t use any specific website for this, rather just rely on whatever comes up in Google.  Often times, these guides will have scene markers and specific lines of dialogue to let the viewer know when the lights start.

Where to sit?

No need to sit in the very first row of the theater.  I found that sitting towards the middle or back in the center is best.  Because the stairs can be very awkward, I have a friend act as a human guide walking slightly in front of me while holding my hand, and I use my cane as well.

Asking questions

Yes, I am one of those people who asks a lot of questions during a movie, even when using descriptive audio.  Having a human guide is extremely helpful because they are able to tell me who is on the screen or what just happened in a movie if I ask.  When I saw the movie Birdman with my brother, I found that the descriptive audio was still very confusing, so having someone there to answer my questions was extremely helpful.

Sound sensitivity

I have a friend who is very sensitive to loud noises, especially low pitched ones.  In order to help with this, they wear ear plugs or earphones that are unplugged during the film to help cancel out some of the noise.  If using a descriptive audio device, moving the headphones slightly out of the headphone jack will create white noise in the form of static that may drown out more intense noises like explosions or loud music.

Dealing with strangers

There will always be strangers who are curious as to how or why someone with low vision goes to a movie theater.  Remember that you have the right not to answer their questions, and can simply ignore them.  If you choose to answer some of these common questions, I have written my typical responses below.

Are you totally blind?  Nope, I have low vision.

Are you able to see the screen?  Mostly, that’s why I use descriptive audio.

What’s descriptive audio?  It describes what is on the screen for me, like who is moving around, what is going on in the background, and who is talking.

Did you get a discount?  Nope, I paid the same price you did.

What’s the point of watching a movie if you can’t see it?  I can listen to it and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.

Look at that blind girl!  Usually a comment from well-meaning parents of little kids, I usually just ignore it.

Do you have (insert disease here)?  Unless they guess what conditions I have correctly, which someone is yet to do, I just answer no and move away as quickly as possible.

 

Hopefully with these tips, your next movie outing will go smoothly and you’ll be able to enjoy the film!

Testing Accommodations For Low Vision Students

Finals week is fast approaching for college students and I have to say I’m not nervous at all for my finals. It helps that my first college final week last year was a whole new level of stressful because I had just been in a car accident two weeks prior and couldn’t think straight because of neck pain, so any finals week in comparison is remarkably less stressful. Another thing that helps is that I have testing accommodations that allow me to focus on the test, as opposed to stressing my eyes out trying to process the material. Here are the accommodations I receive through disability services in college, and some that I received in high school that were written into my IEP.

Colored paper and Arial font

I did a science project in eleventh grade about how colored backgrounds were easier to read for long periods of time as opposed to sharp white, and I have found it’s easier to focus my eyes on a shaded background than white. I usually received tests in high school on light blue or light yellow paper. Arial font is important because it reduces the risk of mistaking letters for one another and it’s clear to read, as well as the fact it scales well on the paper.

Single sided paper 

So one day in tenth grade, the paraprofessional enlarging my work decided to print my tests double sided, something that had never happened before. When I started writing on the test, the sharpie pens I wrote with bled through so I didn’t notice there was information on the back. My math teacher approached me after looking at my test and said “great news! You did really well on half the test…you just didn’t see the other half.” Thankfully, she let me redo the other half, and I never received double sided papers again for testing.

Ear plugs

I have what my family calls super sonic hearing, meaning that my sense of hearing is elevated to compensate for my lack of sight. As a result, I can get easily distracted in testing environments by water dripping from a faucet, the air conditioner, and even voices from halfway across the hall. As a result, I would wear ear plugs, or sometimes just headphones unplugged from my iPod, to muffle background noise and help me concentrate better.

Time and a half 

For timed tests, I receive time and a half so that if there is a problem during the test or if I just need the extra time, I have it. While I don’t often use it, it was extremely helpful during my SAT and ACT tests

iPad apps, when necessary

I rely on certain apps for my learning on the iPad, including a calculator. I have been able to use the myScript Calculator for the state standardized tests, called the SOL in Virginia, the SAT and ACT, and in the classroom as long as guided access is enabled on my iPad.

Sharpie pens

Most tests require students to use pencils, but I am unable to see pencil due to the very faint gray color of the lead. While this is no problem in college to use, I had it specifically written into my IEP that I could use pens. Obviously, I did not use Scantrons.

Low light testing environment

I have pretty intense photosensitivity and bright fluorescent lights are one of my enemies. For my standardized tests, ACT, SAT, and college tests that I take where I am the only one there, the lights are dimmed 50% so my eyes don’t burn from the light. In college, the overhead lights are not used and I have a lamp next to me instead.

E-bot Pro

I have a more in depth review, but this little machine is the reason I have done so well on tests this semester. It is a CCTV that broadcasts to my iPad so I can adjust contrast and zoom in from my iPad. It also can read text when needed. It uses its own personal wifi connection so the iPad can’t access any other apps or the internet. According to a vendor I spoke with, it is approved for state standardized testing in Virginia as well as the SAT and ACT. It is a relatively new device, and one I wish I had in high school.

Large table

All of this assistive technology starts to pile up very quickly on a normal sized desk. While I don’t believe this is written into my accommodations, taking a test on a larger table in the classroom is always something I request. My geology professor lets me set up all of my technology on her desk, and there’s always been a large table lying around somewhere back in high school.

High contrast images, graphs, and maps

When I took geography as a ninth grader, my teacher noticed I had trouble reading the maps and enlarged them on PowerPoint for the entire class to use so that the symbols were clearer. He noticed test scores went up because everyone found it clearer to see. Having images that are easier to read benefits more than just the student needing the accommodation.
While it may seem like I receive tons of accommodations to take a test, most of these are very basic. Although I had one teacher say that me receiving testing accommodations was unfair to the other students, none of my other teachers have said that these give me an unfair advantage. Testing accommodations just help me to show what I know on a test, just like the other students get to do.

How Do People With Low Vision…Use Human Guides?

One time, on a day trip with a couple that I am good friends with, I kept running into stuff constantly, even with my blindness cane to help me. There were so many obstacles on either side of me that it was hard for me to process it all. To help me figure out what was around me, I grabbed my friend’s hand, and she continued to hold on to her fiancee’s hand. As a result, we were walking down the street, all three of us holding hands. While going down stairs and walking into rooms was slightly challenging, and I’m sure we got lots of stares from onlookers, I started running into things less and was able to understand what was around me.
Human guides, or as I affectionately call them, my eyes, are extremely important when it comes to living with low vision. Even though my cane can give me a lot of feedback, sometimes it doesn’t alert me to things until it’s too late. My friends are trained to help alert me to my surroundings and what’s in front of me, and while nobody is perfect, I like to think my friends are pretty darn close. Here are some tips on being a helpful human guide for someone who has low vision.
1. Don’t say things like here, this way, right there, etc. I like to compare it to someone asking where I am and me saying I’m in Virginia. That could mean anything, as it’s a very large area. Likewise, when you tell someone who can’t see that something is “over there,” it’s not very helpful when you can’t see where “there” is.

2. Don’t say “follow the sound of my voice!” I am not a bat, I do not have echolocation, and when someone says that in a crowded room, it’s hard to figure out where they are going.

3. Do allow them to grab onto your hand or arm if needed. I hold hands with my friends all the time. On a trip to the Smithsonian and Madame Tussaud’s, I held hands with one of my best friends practically the whole time as she helped guide me around and describe to me not only the hazards around me, but the cool things as well.

4. Remember the five most important obstacles. These are walls, curbs, potholes, doors, and stairs. Alert someone to these as you approach them, and when possible, move away from them.

5. Remember how important you are. You are acting as another person’s eyes, so make sure not to hurt them or take advantage of this. Remember how much they trust you in order to let them guide you. Having a seeing-eye friend is one of the best types of friends to have when living with low vision, and I am always grateful that I have my own.

 

How do people with low vision,..

How Do People With Low Vision…Navigate a Dining Hall?

I love food. My friends will be the first to tell you that. Because on my meal plan I have unlimited access to the dining hall, I’m always in there grabbing small snacks, full meals, or even just refilling my water bottle. While I do have friends help me navigate when possible, for the most part I am on my own when it comes to navigating the maze that is an all-you-can-eat dining hall. Here are five tricks that help me to get food:

The Incredible Spill-Not

One time, I was walking in the dining hall, tripped, and spilled water all over half of my body and was so embarrassed, I just pretended it didn’t happen and walked back to my table soaking wet, while my new friend looked at me in horror. After that experience, I discovered the Spill-Not, a small plastic device that the cup sits on and the user carries with a handle. The thing is, no matter what direction you swing it in, the liquid will stay in place. I’ve never spilled anything while carrying it, even if I tripped. It can be found for around $10 on Amazon. As great as it is, I do not recommend it for carrying soup due to the heaviness of bowls.

Liquid Level Indicator

By putting this on the side of a cup or bowl, I can be alerted by a loud beep when the liquid is about an inch and a half from the top of the cup/bowl. Mine cost about $3 from MaxiAids

 Knork

These are a knife fork combo that can be used to cut foods like grilled chicken, cooked vegetables, and fruit. It does not hurt to eat with them, since it isn’t like you are sticking a blade in your mouth. They can be found for about $10 for a set of four on Amazon.

Dining Hall Apps

My college uses an app called Bite by Sodexo to display menus for food in advance. It’s easily enlarged on an iOS or Android device, and can be extremely helpful in figuring out which foods are which. It also tells me where the foods are located so I can ask for them.

Spill Guards

When I was younger, I was such a messy eater that our dog would sit at my feet while we ate dinner because she knew food would fall. Since I don’t have a dog with me in college, and spill food on the tables more often, I got these spill guards that are like a small funnel top to put around a plate or bowl. It helps to prevent food from spilling out in all directions. They are available on Maxi Aids.