Tactile Traveler 9: Low Vision Driving, Holograms, Blind Summer Camps, & More

Aug 4, 2020

On this program we learn how you might be able to still get a driver’s license, even if you can’t pass the driver’s license eye test. A way people who are blind in one eye can experience depth. The special problems blind kids have when blind camps are closed because of the coronavirus. How to make zippier Zoom calls. An Asian country welcoming tourists again, with an unusual welcome, and tips on making emergency white cane repairs.

Nick Isenberg edits audio for The Tactile Traveler
Credit Lucas Turner

From KDNK Community Access Radio Carbondale, Colorado, in the United States this is program number nine of the TACTILE TRAVELER-EMPOWERING BLIND AND LOW VISION PEOPLE TO EXPLORE THE WORLD AND HELPING OUR SIGHTED FRIENDS SEE THE WORLD IN A NEW WAY.

The Tactile Traveler Script Show #9

Nick Isenberg 

 

From KDNK Community access Radio in Carbondale, Colorado, in the United States   This is program #9  of THE TACTILE TRAVELER, EMPOWERING BLIND AND LOW VISION PEOPLE TO EXPLORE THE WORLD AND HELPING OUR SIGHTED FRIENDS SEE THE WORLD IN A NEW WAY. I’m Nick Isenberg.

When blind people go places, we don’t experience them like our sighted friends. We don’t see beautiful mountains, or romantic sunsets. The goal of this program is to identify and even create experiences that are more meaningful, and just more fun for us and for our sighted traveling companions.  Frequently as people lose their eyesight, they become more and more isolated.The Tactile Traveler hopes to empower people not only to go literally around the world, but around the block to new adventures in their lives.  

Blind ranges from people who are visually impaired and glasses and contact lenses no longer help them to lead a normal life to people, like me who are totally blind. And to sighted parents who have a blind child to blind parents who have sighted children, and people of all ages, interests and physical abilities. 

On today’s program we’ll learn: how you might be able to still be able get a driver’s license even if you can’t pass the driver’s license eye test, a way people who are blind in one eye can experience depth, the special problems blind kids have when blind camps are closed because of the corona virus, how to make zippier Zoom calls, an Asian country that’s welcoming tourists again and tips on making emergency white cain repairs. 

Flunking the eye exam at your local motor vehicle bureau doesn’t mean that you have to give up driving, or can’t become a beginning driver. The first thing to do is see if your opthamologist, or optometrist will just fill out a form that says you see well enough to drive with, or without restrictions.If they don’t feel you see well enough to drive, they have another way to get you behind the wheel. 

All 50 states and Washington, DC and LICENSING authorities in some other countries have a system for licensing drivers who see worse than 20-40 corrected in their best eye. It’s a low vision drivers license. Requirements vary widely from state to state.

Some states require special training which might require the driver to wear special glasses called bioptics, which we’ll describe in a moment. 

Some states say the bioptics can magnify only up to three hundred percent. While other states say your bioptics can magnify up to four hundred and fifty percent.  And then you might need special training for varying numbers of hours, or you might not need any.

Dr. Richard Shuldiner: And we have 51 sets of rules regarding vision and driving, and that is because there has been no study nor will there ever be a study that will delineate the precise amount of vision of the equity and visual field in order to be a safe driver. It is simply too complex and driving is too complex, and so all of the rules and regulations that the DMV’s have are pretty much really not based on any science. So every state is completely different which makes no sense whatsoever.  

Nick: Richard Shuldiner, low-vision optometrist and president of the International Academy of Low-Vision Specialists.

Dr. Richard Shuldiner (shull-DEE-ner) says many, but not all patients require bioptic glasses.

Dr. Richard Shuldinerdioptic: Some states do allow bioptic telescope glasses.  A bioptic is a telescope located high on a pair of glasses lens so that when you are driving you’re looking through a regular lens but the telescope is available by tipping your chin down a little bit and looking through the top of the lens, and magnifying street signs, and road signs, and traffic lights so you can see them better.

Nick: After a doctor certifies that you see well enough to get a lovision driver’s learner’s permit,  you need to get that permit from your local drivers license office, which may have never issued one in the past.  So don’t be surprised if it takes manyl visits with lots of calls to the supervisor's supervisors to see how to handle it. Depending on your state, you may need  low-vision driver  training which will probably start with an evaluation of all the skills you need for driving. 

Frank Boutelle.

Frank Boutelle: My title would be a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist and I’ve been in business since 1986, my family has been doing this since 1946. I’m the current president of the Driving School Association of California, owner/operator of Teen Driving Training, and California Driver Rehabilitation. 

A comprehensive evaluation is important because we see other things in the comprehensive eval. Someone could have borderline dementia, they could have cognitive issues that are going to affect their driving, poor reaction time, poor lead time. So, there’s a lot to it.  It’s very important if you’re going to drive to have a comprehensive driving evaluation done.  I know there are some states that don’t have facilities there like ours, but I highly recommend seeking a driver rehabilitation specialist to do a proper evaluation which consists of a clinical assessment in and behind-the-wheel.  There are some facilities that only do the clinical and do not do the behind-the-wheel, so you want someone who is going to be able to do both. So, we get a low vision person, we first see what they can see without using the bioptics. We assess them, then we have them wear the bioptics and then we assess them with the bioptics to see what they can actually see, and then we go into an explanation of how to use bioptics. Some do very well. The thing is they have to know what they’re limitations are.  So they might not drive at night, they might not drive on the freeway, and sometimes glare hurts them, so when the sun is rising or setting they might not be able to drive either so there are certain times of the day. 

And there are other tricks to do, what I do for someone who has issues with glare, a lot of the times I’ll recommend putting a cardboard kit on their dashboard to eliminate the glare coming off the dashboard which can be devastating to someone who has low vision. 

Nick:  Marilyn Mancini lives six miles from the world renown ski resort of Crested Butte, Colorado. She uses her low-vision driver’s license to get to work in town where she is a clerk in the clothing department of a store.

Marilyn Mancini:  Driving is really important because we live out in the country and if I want to go into town I have to drive in.

Nick: Like many low-vision drivers, she uses good sense, in addition to her drivers license.

Marilyn Mancini:  Those are my own personal limits.  The license  bureau says “no driving at night”, and that’s the only limitation.  I could drive to Carbondale.  I am married so I do have a husband, but if I didn’t have my husband I probably would be driving to more places.  But I would not drive in heavy traffic even though I am probably capable of it.  

Nick: Marilyn Mancini says she does take turns driving on long trips relieving her husband when they’re on interstates with low traffic. She also says she uses her bioptic glasses when she’s a passenger and on hikes. 

Dr. Shuldiner says he made a pair of bioptic glasses for himself and uses them at football and baseball games, instead of using binoculars. Bioptic glasses and low vision driving school can be expensive. Bioptic glasses cost between from twenty-five hundred dollars to five thousand dollars.  And the evaluation for low vision driving school can run from five-hundred-fifty dollars to nine hundred dollars, plus the cost of driver training. And when you’re done you still might not be a safe enough driver to get a low vision license. Your local state department of vocational rehabilitation may be able to help with the cost of getting a low vision license if you need it to get to work or for work. 

The International Academy of Low Vision Specialists has a list of the requirements for low vision licenses for every state and Washington, DC on their web page https://www.ialvs.com/dmv-driving-laws/ 

You can go to  the transcript of the Tactile Traveler and find the link.  

There is a way for people who are blind in one eye to expand what they can see. If you’re blind in one eye, Lydia Eckhart has a tip you might find useful.

Lydia: When you look at something with two eyes each eye sees what you’re looking at in two dimensions from slightly different angles.  Your brain mixes the two pictures together so that you experience it in three dimensions. If you only see things with one eye, you only see in two dimensions, which looks flat like in a photograph to people who see with both eyes. But there’s a way for people like me who are totally blind in one eye to experience 3D,  like a space between the tip of a person's nose and their face. Holograms are an optical illusion, and they’re a three dimensional illusion.  Some of the places you can see holograms are:  

  • The Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Illinois

  • Oscar’s Candle Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terraho, Indiana

  • Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum

  • Houston Holocaust Museum 

  • Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust 

  • Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, Sweden

  • Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood, Ohio

  • The Rise of the Resistance attraction in Star Wars Galaxy Edge at DisneyLand, Anaheim, CA

  • The Disney’s Hollywood Studios Disney World, Orlando, Florida 

Nick: Thank you, Lydia! 

Nick: A cherished summer tradition for thousands of kids across America has been cancelled because of the coronavirus and that includes camps for the blind and visually impaired, frequently the only place they have to meet other blind children. 

The Tactile Traveler’s Jason Strother tells us what they’re missing this year.

Jason Strother:  Camp Marcella has been a place for decades where kids with vision impairments and other disabilities go to get some fresh mountain air. (NAT SOUNDS OF OUTDOOR KIDS CAMP. KIDS LAUGHING. ADULT LOUDLY DIRECTING. GAMES. CHEERING VOICES) And compete in games like potato sack racing. This sleep-away camp is located in the hills of Rockaway, New Jersey, and like any American summer camp there’s boating, arts and crafts, a swimming pool, campfires, and of course sing alongs. (NAT SOUNDS OF GROUP SINGING LIVELY SONG). But, not this summer.  Like many camps, Camp Marcellup’s cabin doors are closed because of COVID-19. I know a little bit about this place.  I was a camper there back in the 90’s and worked as a counselor there for a couple summers during college. Just like Kristin Gallant, co-director of Camp Marcella. 

Kristen Gallant:  It has been opened since 1947 and this is the very first year it is not going to have a camping session.  

Jason Strother: Besides the boating and the arts and crafts what do you think the kids are missing out on this summer by not being able to attend Camp Marcella?

Kristin Gallant:  The number one thing is their socialization.  This is the only time they are around their peers who are like them and it’s nice to be able to discuss things that you only have in common with a percentage of the population and so Camp Marcella is the place where people can get together and be around others who are like them and have conversations that truly someone else can empathize with. 

Jason:  Do you think this is the first time for many of these kids to meet someone else who has a visual impairment?

Kristine:  Yeah, actually as a camper it was the first time I met someone else with a visual impairment.  

Jason:  How many years were you a camper?

Kristin:  (COUNTING QUIETLY UNDER HER BREATH 1,2,3,) Five years.

Jason:  (Chuckling) What do you think it did for you as a camper going there?

Kristing:  Ya know, it gave me confidence.  I truly, especially, going into high school, I felt the confidence that I could achieve my goals and it didn’t matter that I had to do it in a different way than someone who is fully sighted, and it goes back to that social piece.  I would go up and talk to anyone and before camp I just kind of sat in the background. 

Jason:  I guess for some visually impaired children who are going to mainstream schools and maybe they’re being bullied or not having the adequate educational resources, but you think camp kind of gave them that safety?

Kristin:  Absolutely!  It also gave you friends, so if you were getting bullied in school…  I’m a pretty confident person but I still got made fun of, and it hurt!  Um, but I had friends from camp I could call up and have a conversation and some of them were going through the same thing, and even gave tips on how to handle it.  

Jason:  Are you still friends with many of the people you went to camp with back in the nineties?

Kristin:  I would say yes, yep!

Jason:  Do you think for many of the children who attend Camp Marcella, would they otherwise have any chance to spend time in the wilderness?

Kristin:  No! In fact a lot of the time this camp is the first time they’ve gotten in a boat. It’s the first time they’ve gone fishing.  Most parents, I’m finding out, aren’t taking their kids out on adventures.  They just don’t know how to fish with their child, or canoe with their child, so they just don’t do it. 

Jason:  What are you hearing from parents now that camp is closed this summer?  Are they upset they weren’t able to send their kids to Camp Marcella?

Kristin:  Yes, but also understanding.  So, it's also an outlet for parents.  Having a child with a disability is a lot of extra work for a parent, so it was also a little bit of a break for them. But now that I’m a parent myself I know the joy I feel when my child (HOLDING BACK TEARS) is joyous (JASON GENTLY CHUCKLING) and excited, and I’m happy for them, especially if they’re sad during other times then, because camp makes everyone happy.  They love seeing their kids happy and they love seeing their kids with friends.  

Jason:  What are you missing the most this summer about not being able to work at camp?

Kristin:  So, camp has become my home away from home.  So I was a camper there and then I worked my way up from laundry girl and ended up being director so that is just where I go every summer.  So, it’s just very odd to not be there (LAUGHING) when you’ve been doing something… I started camp, I think it was 1994, and now it’s 2020 and I only missed a couple summers in between when I had my kids, so…

Jason:  And of course the songs.  You never forget the camp songs.

Kristin:  No, and it’s so funny!  I’ve been there for so many years, and everyone has “their” songs that they think are the the Camp Marcella songs, and even having worked up there people will come back who were there in the 60’s,70’s, and they’re like “oh, THIS is the Camp Marcella song”, and they always say that their time at camp is the best camp there ever was.  

Jason:  For you, what is the soundtrack of your Camp Marcella experience?  If I’m going to play a song to lead us out of this story, what am I going to play? 

Kristin:  So right now it would be ‘Country Roads’, (GROUP SINGING WITH GUITAR  ‘TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROADS’ by JOHN DENVER STARTS PLAYING UNDERNEATH)  because that’s what we’ve done for our camp song for the last ten years.  

JASON: (SONG CONTINUES UNDER LEADING OUT) Kristin Gallant, co-director of Camp Marcella, thanks a lot for talking to me, and stay safe!

Kristin: (chuckling) Stay safe! Bye!

(GROUP SINGING FADES WITH APPLAUSE)

NICK: Thank you, Jason!

Nick: International restrictions are a little less restrictive for visiting some Asian countries since the coronavirus first became a pandemic. Elizabeth Campbell says you might need to bring more than just extra tips for your white cain.

Elizabeth Campbell: Take Cambodia for instance, where the government is requiring foreign travelers to shell out big bucks for COVID-19 expenses once they land at the airport. If you’re from the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain or Iran, you can’t go there right now, but for our listeners in other countries, you will also need a health certificate stating that you tested negative for COVID-19 and proof that you have an insurance policy with minimum coverage of $50,000.  Once you land, you and other passengers will be tested for COVID-19. If your test comes back negative, you can go to your destination where you are in quarantine for 14 days. If you or other passengers test positive, you will be quarantined at a specific location.  You will have lots of time to get ready to check out cool destinations, such as Tonle Sap Lake, a UNESCO site because of the wildlife.  You can’t miss traveling to the wondrous temples including the largest religious building in the world, Angkor Wat. And when you’re ready to go home, you’ll get your three thousand  dollars back, minus the cost of  your 14-day quarantine expenses that corona test and your funeral.

Nick: Thank you, Elizabeth!

In the era of the coronavirus, we are spending a lot of our time on Zoom calls. Phyllis Chavez has some tips on how to make zippier  Zoom calls that you might find useful. 

Phyllis Chaviz:  Not only Zoom calls, any video calls! You need to think about two things when you star, or have a supporting role on Zoom.  You want to look and sound good! Not because you’re an egomaniac, but because you want to be taken seriously.   Communicate well, and sell your ideas to your Zoomates!  First, don’t sit in front of a window, or anything that has light coming from behind you . That’s because it will cause you to be backlit, which washes out the features on your face. That makes it difficult for people to get visual clues when you speak.  So, close the drapes and blinds behind you. And you want to sound good, so that you have authority.  Lots of people on Zoom calls are too loud, too low, echo or have too many background noises.  That’s a problem you might solve by moving closer or farther away from the microphone on your webcam or laptop computer.  Use a headset if you have one.  People who are frequently in the news, should buy a lavalier microphone. You can buy one online for less than $25 that will plug into your computer.

Nick:  Thank you, Phyllis!

White canes have a way of breaking, but that doesn’t have to leave use stranded.  Simon Bonofont has some tips you might find useful. 

Simon:  If you’re traveling alone and your white cane breaks, you can still make it back home or to your hotel.

If a straight cane shaft breaks, like when someone steps on it, or it gets caught in a car door. If the driver is still there, ask for a ride home.  If the driver’s gone, and you're near a business, go into the business and ask if they could duct tape some pencils tightly to the broken section of the cane. If they have something that’s longer and stronger than  pencils, like rulers, that even better. Then use the cain very lightly,  it’ll get you a short distance.

If it’s a folding cane on a section breaks, use pencils and duct tape where the two pieces come together.  If the elastic band in the middle of the cane breaks, that's a simple repair. Stick something thin like a couple blades of grass where the sections slip together.They’ll make secure connections. If you use little pieces of paper between the sections, they’ll stay together so well, you’ll never get them apart and you’ll have a straight cane.  Save broken folding canes. You can use the parts to make new canes. And always save REMOVABLE wrist straps and tips, they can be used again. Wrist straps can also be used as wrist straps for cell phones that are in cell phone cases. And finally, always carry extra tips in your pocket, if you use small tips, keep a backup folding cane in your backpack, briefcase or large purse and suitcase. 

Nick:  Thank you, Simon!

(DIGITAL SCALE TALKING)

NICK:  It’s my talking scale reminding us that we’d like you to weigh in on how we're doing. Please let us know by sending a e-mail to thetactiletraveler@gmail.com

We spell traveler the American way with one  “L.”  We’d also like to hear your story ideas from all over the world. Send us an e-mail with story ideas in the subject line at thetactiletraveller@g-mail.com .

If you would like to help underwrite this program please send us an e-mail with underwriting in the subject line at thetactiletraveler@gmail.com  

Transcripts of this program are also available for our deaf listeners by searching The Tactile Traveler in any search engine.

This program is also being broadcast on the Audio Information Network of Colorado and  in other states and available wherever you get podcasts and by asking your smart speaker to play the podcast  THE TACTILE TRAVELER.

We would  like  to thank the following people who help make TODAY’S program possible:

Be My Eyes Microsoft Accessibility Tech Support

Apple accessibility tech support

Humanware Tech support

Aira

Lorraine Hutchinson

Paula Freumd

Sarah Williams 

Sophia Williams

Harry Cooper

Doug Yakel

Sierra Wolf

Michelle Baumann  

Lucas Turner

And Raleigh Burleigh

This has been THE TACTILE TRAVELER. EMPOWERING BLIND AND LOW VISION PEOPLE TO EXPLORE THE WORLD AND HELPING OUR SIGHTED FRIENDS SEE THE WORLD IN A NEW WAY.  This has been a production of KDNK community Access Radio, Carbondale, Colorado.