By Randy Pierce
Several hundred people descended upon the McGreal Sight Center for the NH Association for the Blind’s 13th annual Walk for Sight on Saturday, June 5, 2016. 2020 Vision Quest was represented by a team of 20 walkers who raised over our goal of $2,020 for the event.
One highlight this year was NHAB’s “Walk in My Shoes” program. Several fully sighted walkers chose to work with a Mobility Trainer from the Association to experience what it is like to travel with sight impairment. A little instruction and the use of sight simulators for glaucoma, macular degeneration, and several other common sight disorders, including a blindfold for the fully blind experience, enabled these walkers to truly understand some of the challenges faced by those served regularly by NHAB.
Since our team had a collection of children on the team, they wanted to experience a form of this and with their parents helped it to take place. I was able to walk amidst them with Autumn guiding me. Listening to their excitement and observations made me appreciate the enthusiasm of youth as well as their candor. Our version only involved closing their eyes so we didn’t get the sight restriction from them, but I did hear from several that trying to use limited sight was almost more strain in concentration.
For us the first and most common concept for them to experience was the trust in their sighted guide. It wasn’t reasonable to have them train for cane or dog but sighted guide is a common method for a sighted person to help with simple guidelines (no pun intended) to lead them along our city route amongst the crowd of fellow walkers. All seemed to become very aware of the ground on which they walked which they formerly took for granted. Each crack in the sidewalk, curb, sewer grate and even patch of sand became a little more noticeable for the potential hazard it represented.
While I expect at 6’4″ of height I may need to duck at times, it was surprising how many shrubs had our shorter team members ducking – even Tracy at her towering 4’11″ (and ¾”!!).
A final observation which I find quite true but was surprised to have noted by one of our youths was how much their awareness shrank to a smaller group than they were used to. Eyes allow you to understand what’s happening at a distance and in the noisy environment the world reduced to just a couple of close-by people and the concentration to manage the terrain.
The day was beautiful with many laughs as we relaxed together to celebrate helping a good cause while spending time together. I hope that next year we again assemble an even larger team to either experience a little walk in my shoes or help us support both our charity, 2020 Vision Quest, and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind! Thank you again to all those who joined us, all our many donators and especially to those who delved a little deeper this year!