I ‘met’ Amy Bovaird last month when we both took part in a blogging challenge. I was great inspired by her story and her writing. When I learned that her book was out, I wanted to make sure I could feature it on my blogs. Amy kindly agreed and so here I present to you a short excerpt from Amy’s book
Adventurous international teacher, Amy Bovaird, is diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary eye disease that will blind her. In spite of that, she manages to continue teaching overseas. Then her father’s final illness brings her back home for good. There, friends and acquaintances begin to notice that she doesn’t always recognize them and sometimes stumbles…as if drunk! Insensitive students ridicule her in the classroom. Unwilling to accept that she is truly losing her eyesight, Amy resists when the Bureau of Blindness schedules a mobility specialist to begin training her to use a white cane. How can she, an independent world traveler, use something that screams ‘I am a blind person’? Will her faith prove strong enough to allow her to move forward and accept herself as she is?
About Amy Bovaird
Although Amy suffers from a dual disability—progressive vision and hearing loss—she continues to enjoy running, hiking and traveling. She also volunteers with local and national animal rescue organizations. Amy blogs about the challenges she faces as she loses more vision. But more importantly, she shares the lessons God reveals to her through her difficulties. You can read about her experiences at www.amybovaird.com. You can connect with Amy on Facebook too.
Read an excerpt from Mobility Matters here:
Though officially spring, it felt more like winter. With patches of snow dotting nearby yards and parts of driveways, it seemed a harsh start to my new resolve. Bob and I met in the back driveway. The driver watched in the car while Bob prepared me for our first “blind” walk.
He held several newly-purchased black eye masks in his hand. “The time has come to fit one of these sleep shades over your eyes. I have several, so you’ll need to inform me which one you feel most comfortable with.”
I slipped the first one over my eyes. I hummed the theme to the 1956 Batman series. “To the batpole, Robin. I mean, Bob. Why do I need to wear these things again?”
“For you to benefit from your training, it’s essential that you practice in the conditions when you most need your cane. The goal is to get you to stop relying on your sight. Wearing sleep shades forces you to apply the non-visual mobility techniques I’m teaching in order for you to get around better.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll wear one, too. So we’ll both look somewhat peculiar.”
The raw, March air chilled me as I gripped the cane in one hand and held on to my hood, which was flapping in the wind, with the other. “I wish I’d brought my gloves.”
“You’ll warm up once we get moving,” Bob assured. “We need to leave from Lake Street, you said, so where is that located from where we are?”
“It’s straight ahead.”
Our route consisted of walking a quarter of a mile up the street in front of my house to a wooden footbridge I knew from childhood. Crossing over the bridge would put us in the next town. We’d walk to the end of that street, then turn around and retrace our steps.
My instructor put me in the lead and called out suggestions to guide me along.
I started out slowly, almost shuffling—tapping for the familiar. Where had all these stones come from? When did the sidewalk get so uneven? I knew the curb was somewhere, but where? Where? The tip of my cane tapped against a hard-curved surface. “We’re at the corner, Bob.”
“Okay, listen for cars,” Bob instructed. We waited for a couple of minutes. “There isn’t much traffic here, is there? Okay, let’s cross.”
On the other side, I headed west—at least I hoped it was west.
“Stay on the sidewalk. Sweep your cane back and forth to find the hard surface. Feel that?”
“Yeah,” I said, breathless.
“If you feel something soft, you’ve wandered onto someone’s lawn. Just take nice smooth sweeping movements and go forward at a steady pace. That’s it. Excellent!”
“How do you know, Bob?”
“I can hear the way your cane is moving and where your voice is coming from.”
Wow. It’s true. When one sense is taken, the others become more acute. That is so cool. Would mine get stronger, too? No. I’m losing my hearing. For just a second, I actually forgot.
“Keep going. You’re doing great!” Bob continued.
Or I was until I heard a vehicle move. Up close. Loud. Beep-beep-beep. Is that driver backing up? I listened. Didn’t move a millimeter. Couldn’t.
“You aren’t in any danger, Amy. Keep going.”
Where was that vehicle? What if the driver didn’t see me? What if I walked into its path? What if he backed over me?
I could hear the screech of brakes, the scrape of the something heavy being lifted, indistinct mumbling, running, more movement. The sounds began to fade.
“You were fine,” Bob reassured me, “Is today garbage day in your neighborhood? It sounded very much like two able-bodied males loading a heavy truck again and again. It stopped next to you, not in front of or behind you.”
My breath came in short pants, like Buddy’s did after a long run. It’s okay, I told myself sternly. I’m all right. I took a deep breath and forced myself to continue.
“That’s it. Take your cane out farther.”
A train whistle startled me. “The train tracks must be ahead, just under the bridge we’ll be walking on.”
It took five minutes before my cane found the wooden slats. “We’ve made it to the footbridge!” I shouted.
We had just crossed to the other side of the bridge when a succession of powerful rumbles and hissing sounds came to my attention. I strained to hear. What is that? “Oh! That must be the school busses leaving to pick up the kids.”
“There’s a grammar school nearby?”
“Yeah. I hope we don’t get caught up in the school traffic. We’d better head back.” I turned and surged forward as if I could see.
“Amy. Whoa! Come back.” Bob’s voice sounded serious but not alarmed.
Where am I? I froze at the sound of a vehicle v-e-r-y close.
Again, I heard Bob’s voice, slow and steady. “You’ve wandered across the road. Come back.”
Gladly. Just tell me where to “come back” to. How did Bob know that I’d wandered across the road? I simply trusted that he did. Then, in a flash of nervous energy, I gripped my cane and swung in a series of arcs around me, spinning in a small tight circle. “Bob, where are you? I can’t see.”
“Stay put. Listen to my voice. Do you hear more traffic?”
“Yes-s-s.” But from which side?
My muscles were tightly coiled, ready to spring into action but I didn’t know where to go.
“Put your cane straight up and down. Remember? That will tell the driver you are not going to cross the street. Do that now.”
I immediately responded.
The vroom of the engine drowned out any other thought I might have had at that moment.
With the immediate danger over, I let out a breath. “Where am I, Bob?”
“The opposite side of the road. Just cross over again. Listen to my voice. Come here.”
I listened intently, trying to pinpoint Bob’s voice and began to cross with steady sweeping movements like he taught me to make. His voice grew closer. My cane swept back and forth until I hit a hard surface. The sidewalk? I swept a few more times and tapped the soft surface on each side to be sure. Yes, the sidewalk. Back to safety!
“See? You made it.”
“Yippee!” I wanted to rip the sleep shades off my eyes then and there. A mixture of laughter, excitement, and adrenalin surged through me. “Can I take my sleep shades off now?”
“Not quite yet.”
I groaned, but continued on.
Finally, I said, “We should be nearing my house by now. Can I peek?”
After a long pause, Bob said, “Yes, I give you permission to remove your sleep shades.”
I yanked at the elastic, and the sleep shades flew off. Hallelujah! It took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust to the light. Then I noticed something incredible. “My house is the next one over. Can you believe it? Hey, Bob, we did it!”
“Of course we did.”
Though I had known this street my entire life, that afternoon I learned how unfamiliar even an area I knew so well could be without sight. My companion was blind. Yet I had asked him questions as if he could see the layout of every street and obstacle. He had existed in my world, and I in his. With our roles reversed, I felt the barriers between us fall away.
“I can’t believe I did that!” I bubbled over. “When I put on my blindfold I experienced your world the whole time.”
“They’re sleep shades, not blindfolds.”
I didn’t have to ask what the difference was. Bob let me know.
“You’re blindfolded when you play children’s games. Sleep shades simulate the conditions in which you will one day find yourself. Don’t forget that,” he said sternly. “By the way, we all live in one world, although we may respond to this world through different senses. I am teaching you how to respond non-visually.”
“I never thought of it from that perspective,” I said, slowly.
“You wouldn’t have, without this training. Up until this point, you’ve experienced life with your physical vision. Now you’re coming to understand that this world can be met visually, at those times when you can see, and non-visually, for those times when you can’t. The non-visual techniques are no less legitimate than visual techniques, and they are no less safe.”
So much information to digest!
“Bob, thanks for watching my back.” I grinned at the paradox of my words. Yet, that’s exactly what he had done.
My sleep shades had taught me the value of developing my skills. No more blindfolds.