Advertisement

Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Blindfolds teach empathy for visually impaired

Students from Missouri State University try to navigate the streets of Lawrence blindfolded as part of a certification program for teachers of the visually impaired and orientation and mobility specialists.

Students from Missouri State University try to navigate the streets of Lawrence blindfolded as part of a certification program for teachers of the visually impaired and orientation and mobility specialists.

June 12, 2009

Advertisement

Students from Missouri State University try to navigate the streets of Lawrence blindfolded as part of a certification program for teachers of the visually impaired and orientation and mobility specialists.

Students from Missouri State University try to navigate the streets of Lawrence blindfolded as part of a certification program for teachers of the visually impaired and orientation and mobility specialists.

Program aims to educate others to teach visually impaired

A group of four graduate students from Missouri State University were in town Thursday, trying to navigate downtown Lawrence — blindfolded. Enlarge video

Close your eyes for a minute.

Now imagine trying to cross the street at a busy downtown Lawrence intersection, the only thing to guide you being the sound of the cars whizzing by.

A group of four graduate students from Missouri State University were in town Thursday, trying to navigate downtown Lawrence — blindfolded.

Rebecca Munjak, 33, her vision completely obscured, walked cautiously to the edge of Eighth and Massachusetts streets, her white cane encountering a number of obstacles: a concrete planter, a garbage can — or is it a mailbox? she asks.

“It’s really intimidating at first because all of a sudden your vision is just cut off completely,” Munjak said. “You’ve got to rely more on your hearing and your sense of touch.”

The students are all working toward dual certification as teachers of the visually impaired and orientation and mobility specialists, who help blind people learn to navigate their community.

In 2005, Missouri State University received a federal grant to teach 32 students as part of a program called Project Diverse.

“Our goal is to teach our students just how difficult it is, so when you do work with students who are visually impaired, you understand the difficulty,” Missouri State faculty member Craig Phillips said. “It engenders a real sense of respect and admiration for our travelers.”

Phillips, who previously worked as a vision specialist for the Lawrence school district, now teaches a course at Missouri State called “the blindfold class.”

Students must complete 160 hours in the blindfold.

“The blindfold class is a rite of passage for every orientation and mobility specialist,” Phillips said. “You have to learn to eat lunch, to travel streets, to cross streets. You have to do everything that we as sighted individuals do, only they do it without sight.”

The training is not always easy, even for the student who is not wearing the blindfold.

“It’s tough to know when to say something and when to let her learn on her own,” graduate student Erin Meyer, of Bethany, Mo., said, as her classmate nearly took a tumble down an open stairway on the south side of Teller’s on Eighth Street.

“Blind people get a lot of bruises,” Meyer said.

Meyer, who lives in a rural area near the Iowa border, said she decided to pursue the certification after her town was without a vision specialist for several years. She said many smaller school districts can’t afford to keep a vision specialist on staff.

Munjak, who received her master’s degree in deaf education from KU and now works for the Department of Veteran Affairs, said she’s completing the certification to give something back to the veterans who served our country.

“It definitely gives you appreciation,” she said after removing the blindfold. “Don’t take your vision for granted. It’s definitely a different world out there if you don’t have it.”

Comments

Katara 4 years, 10 months ago

KeepMKind (Anonymous) says…

Okay. My feelings have successfully been hurt, not that it matters much in this forum. I did believe it was a forum for discussion and not attack. I believed that open dialogue meant I could share openly and directly. You are right, I do not understand your point of view and I wanted to. I was hoping to learn something, and I have. I'm not going to try to learn anything here. It's okay, I've already told LJ to remove me, because it has single handedly been made a less than enjoyable experience in less than 24 hours. I feel I've been quite respectful in my choice of words…and was looking for nothing more than to share my voice and listen. Again my apologies and Namaste. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Please don't do that. LJW is much more interesting with a diverse group of opinions and I enjoyed reading yours. I don't believe there was anything deliberately insensitive about yours and you have made it clear that you are willing to listen and learn about others' experiences. This is a good thing and we need more of it.

I am very sure I would completely offend begin60 if I happened upon him/her in public and offered assistance. I do that to anyone who appears to be having difficulty regardless of the situation. If someone has their hands full, I hold a door open for them. If they seemed stressed by a small child who is misbehaving in public, I try to distract the child with something to give the person a moment to breathe and gather their senses. There is no judgment on the person's abilities. It is just a courteous and helpful thing I can do and it requires very little effort on my part to do those things.

Believe me, I have been on the receiving end of those things and I completely appreciated it because the person to the time out of their valuable time to make things at least a teensy bit easier for me.

0

KeepMKind 4 years, 10 months ago

Bearded Gnome...

That "bible thumping" intolerance was my point...it's a form of reverse discrimination and intolerance...

I only wished to impart to our fellow that I do not read the Bible and am not a Bible thumper and am in fact a member of a group that faces discriminatory practices...

Not all people who aim to help have alternative motives...some do it for very legitimate reasons...

I wish to treat people the same because I wish to be treated the same...

I do not know how that is threatening...it makes me very sad....

Peace to you all.

0

KeepMKind 4 years, 10 months ago

Okay. My feelings have successfully been hurt, not that it matters much in this forum. I did believe it was a forum for discussion and not attack. I believed that open dialogue meant I could share openly and directly. You are right, I do not understand your point of view and I wanted to. I was hoping to learn something, and I have. I'm not going to try to learn anything here. It's okay, I've already told LJ to remove me, because it has single handedly been made a less than enjoyable experience in less than 24 hours. I feel I've been quite respectful in my choice of words...and was looking for nothing more than to share my voice and listen. Again my apologies and Namaste.

0

bearded_gnome 4 years, 10 months ago

begin60, I hope you will not abandon this screen name, for one thing the admin appreciates it when you don't. further, I'm now acquainted with you under this screen name.

I have received many private messages through this site, and in the case of a small number, less than seven, they were overtly threatening. I forwarded them to ljworld admin and those users were removed immediately. if you feel that the content of the private message is such, report it to jonathan kealing or one of his compadres at ljworld admin.

btw, don't go too far pounding on "bible thumbers," that's another form of intolerance. I might be called a "bible thumper" by some.

0

bearded_gnome 4 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

0

begin60 4 years, 10 months ago

KeepMKind I feel your email was so threatening and inappropriate I will need to report you if you contact me again. Moreover, I no longer feel comfortable using this sign-in name. This is supposed to be a public debate in a public forum, hopefully among adults. I don't like presumptuous strangers getting so personally confessional about their legally protected characteristics or making wrongheaded, uninformed assumptions about my own. Civil rights are about equal opportunity and educational and employment rights based on earned qualifications and merit; therefore, privacy must be respected to allow an equal playing field. It's a terrible expression of disrespect to insinuate oneself so personally on strangers-email is more than enough, but I'm talking terrorizing people you don't know on the public streets with genocidal ignorance. It damages our human ability to compete on equal terms and even to freely enjoy the public space without being terrorized by the intellectually and morally challenged, and should not be allowed by employers or schools. Of course sometimes these are among the main perpetrators of hate and bigotry. I feel if someone invades my privacy in such a mindless and rude way I have a right to reasonable verbal self-defense. You don't by a longshot honor the light in others, KeepMKind. You kiss to kill, and your idea of kindness seems murderously cruel. I simply ask that you respect civil rights laws. This is a public responsibility--not an occasion for personal confessionals. No one deserves to be treated with such ignorance and hostility for merely requesting respect for their supposeably legally protected rights.

0

KeepMKind 4 years, 10 months ago

Bearded_Gnome...

I see your point. I did not mean to suggest blind people shouldn't speak for themselves, absolutely they should. But who are the blind people educating and lobbying to? At what point do sighted people rise to the occasion and join the cause and be accepted for it. It seems like a bit of a reverse discrimination. I may need some education on how it isn't?

I am a therapist who works with young children and their families. I work with communication disorders and most of my students have some level of visual impairment. I've been to NAPVI meetings and heard parents cry for help from professionals and blind community members to help them advocate for their children. I heard the blind rep from rehab services for the blind point blank tell a parent that he wasn't going to get involved, and that he was only there because he was invited. A blind professor did agree to help build the Missouri chapter along with a couple of O&M professionals. I thought this was great and really just went to show that people who are going to advocate and work towards a goal are people who are going to advocate and work towards a goal period whether they are blind or not.

I agree that empathy is good, and respect is far better. What I meant is that we need to work together and we owe that to each other, so we truly can start treating each other as individuals, so it isn't you and me, it's us.

I do understand the NFB and AFB philosophies, and I will be honest with you...I do not join any camp when it relates to politics or religion or any organizational affiliation. I respect them all, but I will always attempt to do what is right by the individual according to them, not me, or my bias. That's just me, and that's how I want to be treated. Until, I find something better, I will most likely continue to ascribe to that.

I greatly appreciate this dialogue. Thank you, and perhaps you may enlighten me more with your thoughts as I still have much to learn about myself and others...as I should.

0

bearded_gnome 4 years, 10 months ago

keepMkind, your first post forgets one very important issue.
the blind wish to speak for themselves, it is why they organize, lobby, publish, educate the public, push innovation that benefits all blind persons, and oppose the use of circumlocution.

www.nfb.org

yes, O&M instructors are desperately needed. does your program accept blind O&M instructors to be?

that is, I'm guessing you're affiliated with the program that came to lawrence, perhaps I am wrong.

empathy is good, but respect is far better.

0

KeepMKind 4 years, 10 months ago

After reading several of your blogs Begin60, and as a first time poster to LJ just exploring the LJ boundaries, I've enjoyed the friendly welcome. Forgive me for finding your posts compelling enough to interject dialogue with you. I now see where you are coming from after reading your past posts on other issues, and that I of am of inferior intellect by comparison. No one wants to be treated different for any reason period.

0

begin60 4 years, 10 months ago

I did not sign up for any service to have emails sent to my personal account and I'd really appreciate the LJ World not letting this happen again. There exist legal rights to privacy. It's simply terrifying, inappropriate and abusive to be approached by uneducated, unsophisticated and terribly presumptuous strangers on the streets of Lawrence. Besides privacy issues, people have a right to self-identify. People need to respect the rights of others to define themselves. It's terribly presumptuous and destructive and hurtful to impose wrongheaded, bigoted assumptions on people you don't know. I now claim my legal rights to privacy and please respect that. I feel harassed that should be enough to let any decent person know it's necessary to back off. I have no words or wisdom for anyone who can't accept that simple, reasonable request based on reasonable civil rights law. Please don't harass my personal email account again. This article above is thick and uninformed and shows misunderstanding and disrespect for the visually impaired. You are terribly damaging and hurting people by refusing to mind your business and rspect the boundaries of people you don't know and who don't welcome your approaches. Other people should not be persecuted and invaded due to your amazing lack of perceptiveness and good judgment and respect for privacy. Whoever put their verbal diarrhea in my email- box- you need to back off. You have no right to trample my privacy with your moindlessness and rambling. We have nothing to say to each other and are far from the same wavelength I'm talking the law here people, so maybe you just need to sharpen your knowledge and respect for civil rights Don't treat people differently--it's against the law, and when you're talking ignorant people no one should have to deal with just to navigate the streets. This is out of vbounds. It's genocoidally aggressive and destructive.

0

begin60 4 years, 10 months ago

I wish I had the option of wearing a blindfold around Lawrence and KU--the better not to look at all the prejudiced, mean, uneducated people. Did you learn to approach and harass strangers with perceived physical limitations based on unfair, discriminatory assumptions with your offensive offers of help from watching Sesame Street or what? I know it must have been a reputable, wise source, since only in those areas of the country famous for backwoods bigotry and bible-thumping do people behave like this.

0

KeepMKind 4 years, 10 months ago

As a professional who is privileged everyday to work with visually impaired individuals and their families, I feel compelled to comment on how important it is for individuals of any community to advocate for excellent VI and O&M programs. The work these people do is so much more than working for the student and their families directly. It involves working with public transportation engineers, city works, administrations at the federal, state and local government levels as well as district level to advocate for funding or policies that directly affect visually impaired people. There is so much more involved than even this. Educating the public and planting a seed of awareness was the unsolicited purpose of this article I believe. I feel compelled to commend the press on this one.

In my opinion, empathy defined as understanding is something you can ever fully achieve, rather it is merely something you can attempt. Empathy does not imply understanding, only an attempt at understanding. I could never begin to truly say that I know what it's like to be anyone else. I can only listen fully perhaps going to the extreme of replicating without true duplication and then respond compassionately. However, I'd like to be naive enough to trust that if we could all recognize that we have a responsibility to each other whether "help" is solicited or not, the sincere good intentions and great potential possibilities would be enough to outweigh any perceived, real or yet unrevealed disability that has ever been. We owe this to each other. I am not stating that this is how the world works, but it's a nice thought and something to work towards.

0

bearded_gnome 4 years, 10 months ago

With all of that said, I still do not believe that VI teachers, even the most dedicated and most skilled, can give a child with visual impairements the same kind of individual and comprehensive care that the Kansas State School for the Blind can. My son has absolutely thrived there because he can learn in an atmosphere that doesn't regard him as impaired but regards him as the same as any other student. That kind of empathy and in group acceptance is not something that a public school can give a VI child.

---absolutely right on Denak! note that kansas state school for the blind is one of several state institutions being examined for closure or realignment! this is most serious and people need to contact legislators to save KSSB.


Thanks Begin60. I would add that the blind people I know prefer the simpler term "blind" and have it in their organization's national name and logo. the shorter word helps bring acceptance. also, "visually impaired" was cooked up by paternalistic sighted professors who thought that they were "helping" "the blind" by promoting our society to use a word game. one blind guy I know says "I don't have any vision to be impaired by."


yes, I understand Craig Phillips was a good teacher in the lawrence schools.

I should add that he and the Mo program are teaching their students to teach blind students in the use of the wrong cane, and wrong cane method.


my comment about accosting the MO state students in shades downtown: recently I had two blind guests visit from out of town. we walked down Mass st. they were accosted by panhandlers/homeless twice between 7th and 9th streets. it was so embarrassing.

0

WHY 4 years, 10 months ago

Alcohol teaches empathy for the mentally impaired.

0

begin60 4 years, 10 months ago

Bearded gnome is spot-on about not catastrophizing. Wearing a blindfold is not strictly analogous to being visually impaired. Humans have many senses and abilities we don't normally use; people with visual impairments can compensate just by tuning into their environment with their ears and kinesthetic senses better than you'd think. Either you are aware and alert and have your brain in gear or not. I know some brilliant visually impaired people I trade in a minute for the majority of the so-called temporarily able-bodied-- who very often are saddled with hidden disabilities of their own--not the least which is buying into small-minded cultural norms that privilege the white mainstream. My high scores on school and colleges tests and creative accomplishments were usually enough to win me respectful treatment on the coasts-- but in places Lawrence and Columbia and Lincoln it's all about football and not many seem bright enough to accurately assess others based on objective merits.

0

begin60 4 years, 10 months ago

"Empathy" connotes understanding--appreciating people for who they are, not what they're aren't. In my experience people in places like MO and KS have a ways to go on this score. It's not about exaggerating the practical difficulties the visually impaired face in being a pedestrian. Managing minor stuff like this is just background noise to thinking, aware people. It's about not getting up in people's faces with your limiting attitudes; it's about respecting people's privacy and enabling their independence. Anything else is just a license to express prejudice and to wear your bigotry like a virtue on your sleeve with your condescending and wrong-headed ideas about how much "help" certain people need. This is offensive pity, not true love and concern, so stop adding up how many points you are earning toward your trip to heaven by patronizing people instead of providing them equal opprtunities as productive, employed citizens. Please stop treating others as second-class citizens. When a homeless man feels empowered to offer unneeded, insulting help to a college instructor in crossing the street something is likely wrong --it's all about status and one-upping others, no? Don't terrorize strangers on the street by approaching them with invasive, officious offers of help. Such behavior only marks you as uneducated and insensitive. If anyone deserves pity it's mainly because they are forced to deal with such warped, self-flattering attitudes from the majority of the populace. Just remember: Kansas is as bigoted as you think. Respecting diversity is at issue in this news article. People around here need education, if they are indeed even educable. Sometimes I wonder.

0

denak 4 years, 10 months ago

A few comments:

I am so happy to hear about this program. There are far too many school districts in this country that have no VI teachers or O&M teachers so every little bit helps.

Craig Phillips was my son's VI and O&M teacher for many years. And even though we butted heads a few times, he really did have my son's best interest at heart and these teachers(and their future students) will benefit from that dedication.

With all of that said, I still do not believe that VI teachers, even the most dedicated and most skilled, can give a child with visual impairements the same kind of individual and comprehensive care that the Kansas State School for the Blind can. My son has absolutely thrived there because he can learn in an atmosphere that doesn't regard him as impaired but regards him as the same as any other student. That kind of empathy and in group acceptance is not something that a public school can give a VI child.

School districts should see themselves as supplemental to KSSB not KSSB as supplemental to them.

Dena

0

bearded_gnome 4 years, 10 months ago

did downtown homeless try to accost these students?

something missing in this article. putting people under the shades is hard, but don't make the mistake in thinking that that accurately replicates the experience of everyday blind people. especially blind people with training and experience being blind, they don't want the catastrophizing, because they get information from their environment and they function well.

this training is vital and the student is correct, many districts cannot afford a skilled teacher for blind students.

0

eotw33 4 years, 10 months ago

Missouri roads have too many potholes to practice walking blind

0

zettapixel 4 years, 10 months ago

Huh. I was eating at Teller's the other day at lunch time and I saw this going on. I thought maybe it was just a new downtown attraction like the buskers and the downtown movies!

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.