Penny: Chapter Two of Finding Wheels talks about these five fictitious travelers. So they're not real people. Yet, they are real in many ways because they have some of myself and some of Dr. Corn in them and lots of other people that we both have met personally and professionally along the way. So the first one is Layla. She's 22 and she has a visual acuity of 2/200 so she has some good usable vision. Um, though she had services from a Teacher of Visually Impaired students when she was a grade school through high school, um, there was no orientation mobility services in her area. So she went to summer programs to get orientation and mobility and then she went on to culinary school. Layla is kind of what we consider a middle of the road traveler. As she's gotten older, she's gotten more experience. She's built her confidence. She's been able to deal with unique travel situations but it was a long road for her to become a comfortable independent traveler.
Harley, on the other hand, is a very confident independent traveler and has been for a long time. His motto is “There's an app for that" and as a 20 year old he lives in a small city and attends community college. This is a guy who always has the latest and greatest app on his phone. In this picture you see him checking out his phone while he waits at in intersection. He had a tough time about four years ago when everybody else was starting to drive at 16 and he wasn't, but now he's really come to realize he can get where he needs and wants to go by walking and taking buses.
Javier is kind of the opposite of Harley. His motto was "Hell no! I won't go!" He's 19 and he is a recent high school graduate. He lives in a rural community and he's not big on services. Though he did go to a 10 week residential program and he was very reluctant to work with the orientation and mobility specialist. His motto in life is, you know, there's nothing that pressing I have to do. So unless I'm going with somebody- Hell no, I won't go!
Anna Maria is a young woman who came to the US at the age of 10, had typical vision and then got a brain tumor two years later and lost her vision. So not only was her family adjusting to coming to another country, but then they had to deal with this traumatic illness and then start to learn about special education services. Her parents let her work with the orientation and mobility specialist on the school campus, but would not let the orientation and mobility specialist take her off campus and that has been a little bit of a problem now for her. She's living with her boyfriend, Mateo. She's pretty limited where she's comfortable going. She walks to a job that she has a couple blocks away at a cousin's house, but she's really nervous about taking the bus. She's tried it a few times with her cousin, but she's pretty uncertain about this whole thing. Meanwhile, Mateo's kind of a little bit of a isolator and so her parents are getting concerned that he's kind of pushing her away from everybody.
Kendra is our low vision driver. She's 23 and when she was in eighth grade she was diagnosed with Stargardt's so she lost her central vision. She grew up in a rural community and didn't know anything about low vision driving until she went to college and met up with another student. So she learned about low vision driving and over a period of time she did some research, she checked out a class, she signed up for driver's education. It took her a couple of years to move through this process until she got her bioptic telescopic system down and then have the confidence and the skills to go over and take the driving test. And even though she drives with her bioptics, she has self-limited herself and she does not drive in snow or rain. So there are times that she's a nondriver. I'd like to let you hear part of Kendra's story, so this is a shortened version of it. Um, this was recorded by a friend's daughter. We have had the five scenarios in their entirety recorded, um, in full and hopefully those will be available at the same time the book is.
Kendra: Kendra- Getting My License
I am 23 and will be finishing college this year. I will receive my teacher certification for secondary math so I can teach math in middle and high schools. When I was in middle school, I began to have trouble seeing people's faces and the whiteboard at school. Eventually we found out I have Stargardt's. That's a rare vision problem. It makes it hard for me to see things in the center of my vision. Things changed in a lot of ways for me once we found out I have Stargardt's. There's little traffic where I live. So many kids ride their bicycles and skateboard. My mom and dad felt I'd be careful on my bicycle, but I found I preferred to go with one of my brothers or sister on bike rides and not out alone. Like many young people, I had to make the choice to stay home in our rural area or move away to go to college. When I got to college, at first I didn't ride my bike. I knew trying to maneuver around so many people and not knowing where I was going would be a bad idea. Once I knew the campus, I started riding my bike more and also began traveling off campus by bike. During my freshman year through my counselor at the disability resource center, I met another student with low vision. We found out we lived in the same dorm and over time we became friends. She told me about a consumer organization she belonged to and invited me to go with her to a conference they were having. At first I was not sure if I wanted to go, but she encouraged me to come with her. The best session of the conference I went to by far was about driving with low vision. For many weeks. I thought about low vision driving and if it would be something I could do, I knew the cost of the bioptics were a lot and I didn't want to buy them if I wasn't going to try to become a low vision driver. When I went to meet with my vocational rehabilitation counselor, I asked him what he knew about it. He told me there was going to be a workshop about it and I agreed he could sign me up for it. After I went to the workshop the next time I was home I talked again to my parents about my desire to learn to be a low vision driver. They then understood how important exploring low vision driving was to me and agreed to help me pay for the clinical low vision evaluation I needed and then the bioptics. Having their support was really important to me. It took time, but vocational rehab agreed to provide me with orientation and mobility services to help me with pre driver readiness training. That's vision training before you are behind the wheel of a car. You learn skills like how to use your distance vision and your peripheral vision at different speeds and how to use your bioptic while you're a passenger in a car. My sophomore year I worked with an orientation and mobility specialist. She would explain what I needed to do and then I'd go out with my cousin who had a car and was attending the same college. My cousin and I worked to build my skills. My junior year back at college, I signed up for actual driver's training with a driver rehabilitation instructor. She taught me where and how to look in the distance from my vehicle while also being aware of what was happening in my peripheral vision. With time I learned how to use my regular prescription for driving and the bioptic as needed. This took a lot of time and practice. At the end of my junior year, I was ready to take the low vision driving exam. When I was told I had passed, it was an amazing feeling. I really think it's great being able to drive, but I've also needed to figure out how to deal with times when I can't drive. I don't feel confident driving in the rain or in the snow. So rather than being so stressed out with bad weather, I don't drive at those times. Most people understand why I can't drive at times and offer me rides. I don't worry about asking people for rides and I always explain why I need one. I'll offer gas money or buy someone a coffee if they give me a ride. With a couple of my friends, we alternate who drives.
Penny: So you got a little taste of Kendra and the process that she went through to be a low vision driver.