A year ago today, I graduated from BLIND Inc an adjustment to independence training center in Minneapolis. For years, I had avoided going.
In the summer of 2005, I attended a training center program for high school students. It lasted 5 weeks, and since we were under 18, we had supervision 24 hours a day and weren’t allowed to have any alone time or go anywhere without a counselor and other students. That made me absolutely crazy. By the end, I was running out of patience and absolutely needed to get away from everyone. At that point, I was just starting to get comfortable with city travel. I think a part of me knew I should go for more training, but my thoughts then and for the next several years were “If 6 weeks with people made me crazy, I will never survive 6-9 months.”
After I had been in college and realized I was going to either have to go to grad school or get a new job, I knew I needed to go. Travel was, and still is, my weakest blindness skill. I think I would still get easily disoriented and be bad with directions if I were sighted.
I didn’t have good travel teaching when I was younger. As I’d written before, I wasn’t encouraged by my teachers in elementary school to walk by myself. As a result, I was one of the slowest moving people; because I was always in a group or hanging off of someone’s arm, I didn’t develop confidence to walk easily.
The first time I ever walked alone, without an adult supervising me or with a friend, I was in ninth grade. For some reason, my ride didn’t show up to pick me up from reading club after school. I was pretty sure I knew how to walk home once I got to the junior high school. I got there and walked the way I had learned with my travel instructor. I was fine till I got a block away from where I lived. I veered right into the street, and when I corrected myself, I didn’t know how to figure out where I was. Someone in a car saw me and gave me directions to get to Crawford, my street. I was so excited, and when I got home, I told my mom I had made it by myself.
After that, I practiced walking home with a travel instructor because I participated in 10 or so after school activities in high school and didn’t want to depend on a van. My mom saw something about kidnapping or something on TV, and after that, she was worried that I would be hurt and it wasn’t safe. So, I didn’t walk independently again until I got to college.