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Vista Center Client in the News

(This article is excerpted from an article about Vista Center client and inventor, Barbara Beskind, written by Mary D'Apice in VisionAware

Mastering Her Commute with Orientation and Mobility Training

Seated in her living room surrounded by a collection of glass art and Beskind's own colorful needlework, she emptied her pockets to show me how she is able to commute to her job unhindered by a bulky purse. Her compact wallet was fastened to an elastic band and pinned to the inside of one pocket while a pedometer was secured to the other pocket. Because she can no longer drive, Beskind enlisted the support of Alec Karp, an Orientation Mobility (O&M) Specialist at the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Palo Alto to help her learn to navigate public transportation.

It was Alec who advised her to avoid carrying a purse because it can throw a person off balance. Since Beskind is unable to see walk signs in certain light, Alec taught her to better understand traffic patterns so she could safely time street crossings. He also showed her the safest position to stand at intersections so she would avoid stumbling over curbs. O&M Specialists traditionally issue long, white canes to help people with visual impairments detect slopes, changes in terrain and other tripping hazards, but Beskind has adapted ski poles that serve as both probes and balance support.

ski poles modified with red and white tape to be used as mobility canes

Adaptation of Ski Poles

She bought the poles at Costco, modified the handles, and added white and red tape to alert others of her visual impairment. Beskind and I discussed how many seniors who may otherwise be helped by a white cane refuse to draw attention to their vision loss. "For my generation, 'disability' was a bad word." Beskind explains. "People were afraid they'd be looked down on. Even President Roosevelt didn't want to be seen as handicapped." But Beskind is pleased that other pedestrians, particularly young people and children, are eager to offer assistance at busy street corners. Hiding a disability is counterproductive, she believes. "How can people help you if they don't know you need help?"

Beskind never leaves her home without her "sticks" which help make up for the sense of balance she has lost due to lack of visual input. Maintaining her long stride and quick pace, Beskind logs in several miles a day on her pedometer. She muses that her travel gear would be complete with a pair of light up sneakers that kids often wear. "You could tap 3 times on the heel to light up the shoes and then tap another three times to turn them off when you get across the street."

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Photo: Mary D'Apice