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American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf-Blind Reality: Living the Life
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Restaurants, unless they are fast food places, are normally too dim or too noisy for me. We always ask for their brightest table with the least amount of noise, and most of the time, it is satisfactory. If we’re at a new restaurant, my husband will check out the table first before taking me to it. He guides me with his hand on my shoulder, or I hold his hand and walk behind him. I usually take one of my girlfriends’ arms and ask them to walk just one or two steps ahead, so I know if they are going up or down a step.

As for shopping, it is best if there is a cart, like in Target or TJ Maxx, so I can stand behind the cart, and my companions pull the cart. This way, I can walk and look side to side so I don’t miss anything and don’t have to worry about obstacles.

I do find shopping exhausting, and I am always happy to return to my familiar surroundings. I also do not ask to be taken anywhere, but I have friends with whom I go to the manicurist, petite-clothes shopping, bargain shopping, etc. I try to spread myself out, so I am not too much of a burden to any one person—they don’t like it when I talk like this, but it’s the reality of it. I know it would be a drag to be a sighted person and have to tag someone along, so I try to be a positive, fun person and always pick up the tab for lunch and explain I’m not paying for gas. Sometimes they accept, and many times they refuse, but we very seldom go to a fancy place, as we are too busy shopping, so it could be a drive-thru.

I miss being able to drive (I could drive until my vision became too limited, due to Usher’s syndrome), and I miss the independence. But once again . . . what are my choices? So I must make the best of it. This is just another reason I have chosen to keep myself busy and why I am so driven to make my BEE project successful—raising funds for FFB. It is only the funds that slow down progress, and I’m working myself silly, so we can wipe out blindness.

Mark Gasaway

I have lived in the average American home as an adult, This includes a small home on my parents’ land, a room rented from the facility I was employed by, several apartments (after getting married), and a condo. At each of the places, except the apartments and condo, I lived by myself. At the apartments and condo, I lived with my wife and a dog. Now I am divorced and share a condo with a friend.

I did not and still do not need any special equipment or technology to help me with any housework. I do everything the old-fashioned way!

I cooked and still do, but again, I do not need any special equipment to help me. I cook like other people might cook. However, reading oven and stove dials and frozen food containers is not easy. To help me with setting the oven and stove temps and reading heating instructions on containers, I use a handheld magnifying glass. I know where all the utensils and cooking things are kept, so it is not hard for me to find things. The kitchen is kept organized, as well as the entire home.

Sometimes, the vacuum cleaner would not work properly, and I had to do some tinkering to make it work. To do the tinkering, I had to rely on what I could feel rather than see to fix things, and did well in that category. At times, my vision was not good enough to see what I was doing, so I had to get down on hands and knees to feel.

Getting around is one thing I do the best! I have been able to get around independently ever since I can remember. As a youth, I walked down to the post office, food store, bank, and anywhere else I needed or wanted to go. I also rode my bike down and around town. My vision was good enough for me to do this safely, and I enjoyed the exercise.

Then I moved to Atlanta, where there is not much space to ride a bike the way I could in the small town. I learned my way around an area near a shopping center near where I lived in an apartment. That area also had a bus I learned to ride, and I still ride the bus a lot. I miss riding my bike the way I used to; I can only ride it when traffic is light on the street I live on. During the day, my street is crazy!

Where I live now (in a condo), there is a shopping center just down the street and a mall not too far from there. The mall has a lot of good stores.

My primary doctor is in a medical center not far from my condo complex, and I have a choice of walking there or riding the bus. If I need to go to another doctor or specialist, I can take the bus to a hospital not too far from my area.

Going out in public for me is a real confidence-booster and helps me learn where to go and remember how to get to certain places. It takes time and practice, but once I learn how to do it, it becomes easy, and no stress is involved.

I do not use any type of paratransit system [a low-cost transportation service for the disabled that provides rides, scheduled in advance, within a limited region] and do not think I will ever use it. I am on the transit authority advisory committee and have heard a lot of unpleasant stories from paratransit users. It is hard for them to use paratransit when it does not arrive on time or get them to a certain destination on time. These users spend a lot of time traveling on the paratransit (because of long routes that are designed to include other passengers, rather than go directly to an individual person’s destination). A fifteen-minute direct trip by car can take an hour or more with paratransit.

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