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The students lined up along Pickwick Street, a quiet residential side road no more than a few minutes away from their school. Two young boys circle the class on their bikes, looking on. Early morning humidity sits in as JoNita Scarbrough finishes her lap around the block with her class partner, Michelle Provin.
“Alright Jo, that was excellent. You did a great job. Really, I think I like the way you switched hands, tried to use your other hand sometimes. You did your corners very well. I think that was just great. Do you have any questions?”
Both women joined the summer class to pursue MSU’s graduate certification in Orientation and Mobility training. Plainly put, these ladies are learning how to teach and assist the blind or visually impaired around the community.
These two, along with around ten others, are participating in the blindfold segment of the class. Using a white cane and low-vision goggles, the students experience what it would be like if they themselves couldn’t see very well. Some of the difficulties they encountered had to do with knowing where they were at all times.
“Do you know which one is your parallel street?
And your perpendicular street?
We are going to head south on Pickwick, and then when we get to Lombard, do you know which way you are going to turn?
Ok. Whenever you are ready, you may go.
Oh, this is just really freaky.”
The class started six summers ago under the direction of instructors Julie Ituarte and Aundrayah Shermer. Each summer session, the pair takes their students, soon to be teachers themselves, to different places around Springfield. Shermer says every Monday through Thursday from 8 in the morning to 6 p.m., each student gets a first-hand understanding about the difficulties and dangers associated with blindness.
“We start with simple indoor travel, and then we move to the residential area because their students or clients, adults, will travel in their home areas. We try and create an environment that may be similar to something that they would find with their students in home areas.”
Even though the students in this class have worked with the visually impaired before, this experience is giving them an understanding of their clients. For Susan Hoagland, it has given her an appreciation for her students far greater than she could have imagined.
“I’ve learned so much, just from the last two weeks we have been in here, that already I am going to be leaps and bounds ahead about what I can work with my students and help them.”
Kitterson Clyne agrees with his classmate, saying that it isn’t just about getting around, it’s also about knowing where you are.
“Same thing here, it’s just a fascinating class. We’re learning residential neighborhoods. When you apply, you have to be what we say, ‘real complicated’ in terms of knowing the area.”
Sometimes, the students get the opportunity to visit a guide dog school. After they finish the program, most of the students will pursue their certificate in Orientation and Mobility, where they then can become licensed teachers to the blind.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.