April 14, 2016

Take a Walk in My Shoes for Sight Loss Awareness

- Marcia Clark

a young man using a walking stick to cross the road with a young woman guiding him

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.” We’ve created a way for local supporters of the blind and visually impaired to do so!

Though shorter than a literal mile, #WalkInMyShoes is a special feature on a portion of our annual Walk for Sight route that allows adult walkers the opportunity to take their fundraising involvement a step further and look at vision loss differently. For the first time ever, twenty participants can sign up for the #WalkInMyShoes awareness component. This feature will let them experience what it’s like to be on Main Street as a visually impaired pedestrian, by using blindfolds and simulation glasses, with the help of trained sighted guides.

On behalf of the entire Association, I took a few moments with our longtime client and current Board Chair, Randy Pierce, to get his thoughts about the new #WalkInMyShoes feature. Randy is the founder of 2020 Vision Quest, which “leads and inspires students and professionals to reach beyond adversity and achieve their peak potential.”

Marcia: #WalkInMyShoes was created to provide those who are sighted with a greater understanding of what it’s like to navigate city streets with vision loss. Can you share how your training from the Association assisted you in becoming more confident and independent with your everyday travels?

Randy: I think even those who know me well might have difficulty believing that, despite all the incredible things I’m fortunate to experience today, my first significant battle with vision loss left me unable to comfortably walk in my own home — let alone on my hometown streets. The Association’s mobility instructors help people like me learn simple approaches to using remaining sight and other senses in an effective and practical manner.

After my first visit with staff from the Association, I was immediately more comfortable and confident, even though I needed some time to practice and improve the basic set of skills they taught me. As each stage of sight loss eventually left me totally blind, I had some challenging moments, but additional visits from the Association were a priority for them and for me. I was astounded by how much more they had to teach me.

Learning about air shadows, sound patterns, and the tools of a white cane or dog guide was the foundation for giving me full freedom and independence. The blend of teaching and coaching helped me identify the skills I needed. I also gained courage to use them in varied and difficult environments.

Now I will travel anywhere at any time with confidence in the foundation that the Association provided. It’s amusing to think that I first met one of my closest friends while he was lost on a mountain trail, and I was able to help orient him — to be clear he is fully sighted!

Marcia: As a client of the Association, can you share what you hope individuals participating in #WalkInMyShoes will gain from the experience?

Randy: I think people all too easily think of fear and isolation when managing any level of sight loss. The truth is, just like vision loss, the #WalkInMyShoes experience will have some challenges. However, with a little teaching, participants’ awareness of the prominent abilities of people with sight loss will shift their focus away from any of the limitations. This appreciation may guide future interactions and allow us to build a better, stronger, and highly educated community. The more we all learn to understand each other, the more successful we can all become together.

Marcia: Now, as Chair of the Board for our organization, what do you hope the #WalkInMyShoes feature will accomplish?

Randy: I hope these #WalkInMyShoes participants will become excited advocates who not only support the incredible work of the Association but also assist us in growing our partnerships and outreach. With their help, we can better serve the ever-increasing needs of a state that’s current resources are far too limited for those with sight loss. The Association has a vision, and it becomes even clearer when we add the support of empowered and passionate partners!

Marcia: With all that you’ve accomplished as a result of hard work, persistence, and training, why is it so important for individuals to support our cause in this unique way?

Randy: I’d like to start by saying that I’m grateful to the many people who choose to join us at the Walk for Sight and support the Association in various ways. This particular opportunity through #WalkInMyShoes will let people connect to the cause and the clients at a deeper level. That empathy can assist them in educating, motivating, and inspiring others.

I know our clients appreciate when people can understand both the challenges and the opportunities that exist for those with sight loss. Experience is the strongest connection to knowledge, and this is just an excellent opportunity to provide that powerful message during an already valuable event.

Randy wants to know…“Will YOU Walk In My Shoes?” It’s easy to get involved by checking the appropriate box when you register online!