Crossing Over Boundaries: O&M

At the end of August 2018, I completed an incredible training on O&M Technology Apps, in Brattleboro, Vermont, with Diane Brauner and Ed Summers. After this two-day workshop, I came away feeling energized to integrate this technology into future O&M Lesson Plans. As students learn to use O&M Technology, they will be amazed with the important environmental cues they now tune into, as they traverse through their school settings and communities. Even rote learners can learn to use these technology tools, as they recognize the beneficial information they now receive while traveling.

I created a PICTELLO story to represent one of my student’s vocational training sites within the local community. “Star Student” accesses the work environment through a variety of learning resources and formats. This technology sample highlights the importance and convenience of crossing over boundaries, in order to coordinate training activities and strategies that will ultimately impact the student’s ability to function more independently. It is important to include multiple tools to foster this growth and independence. 

Next, I would like to reflect upon the importance of using a “tactile map” to help students define and label key access point(s) to orient themselves within a new locality, particular building, or travel route. Over the years, I participated in several workshops with emphasis on tactile mapping and graphing. I learned basic tactile graphic techniques, through different training activities and use of specialty tactile graphic kits which were designed by American Printing House for the Blind (APH) and Howe Press. I also gained some insight from very creative teachers and a range of valuable resources available at Perkins School for the Blind. 

Tactile representation tends to be an abstract art. These abstract models or diagrams are not easily taught or understood, but could be a helpful learning tool when introducing basic O&M concepts. Learning about location and how to orient within your space when given a tactile map, can be achievable with increased exposure and training opportunities. I admire how some newer technology has been designed to imbed sound within tactile models, which signal the individual’s presence at a particular building entrance or to announce the name of a set locations. One such model is an “interactive map” located in the Grousbeck Center for Students and Technology (GCST) on Perkins campus. This interactive representation provides key information, through raised line representations, with Braille and Large Print labels/symbols, in conjunction with audio output. Students can utilize a tactile model, such as the one found in the Howe Building Museum at Perkins School. This model is a white acrylic, tactile representation of the Campus Map, for students/visitors to gain a basic understanding of the school grounds. There is also a large scale tactile model found in the Perkins Museum, that was contracted for construction many years ago, which is a historical large-scale model, tactile WORLD GLOBE. This Globe was restored several years ago to renew its condition so it can continue to show continents depicted during a much earlier time period. Another tactile display found at the Grousbeck Center, is an intriguing, wood-carved world map which encompasses the entire wall, as you enter into the main entrance of the building. There are numerous examples of tactile maps available in the Perkins Tactile Museum, located within the Howe building basement. It is quite an adventure to explore through touch with students, while examining these tactile models. I particularly enjoy the wooden tactile representation of a collection of jungle animals, which is hung on the wall in the Tactile Museum. There are a range of large scale tactile models of important historical buildings, as well as an extensive model of a formal Church. These examples demonstrate some of the most creative ways to utilize tactile representations for educational purposes. I have observed countless times, when O&M instructors have used an enlarged tactile/print map of the MBTA Bus and Train system, which displays the intricate travel network throughout Boston and its surrounding communities. Historically, we could also access print maps at various establishments around town for MBTA Bus and Train Schedules, for low-vision students to plan more efficient travel routes. Today, many Blind or Visually Impaired consumers travel by Taxi Cab, “The Ride”, or use their smart phones to access ride-sharing apps: UBER, LYFT, GETT, JUNO, CURB, WINGZ, VIA, BRIDG, just to name a few. These ride-sharing apps are described in great detail on the website: digitaltrends.com

In the near future, I hope to develop a project, to create an interactive tactile model of the Papas Horticulture Center (Perkins campus) with its entire layout and all amenities, including: lobby, three classrooms, greenhouse, storage room, offices, restrooms, hallways, surrounding landscape, and outdoor gardens. In addition, students could learn about the history of the Perkins Horticulture Program, through interactive stations. Finally, they can explore the construction materials which make up the Horticulture Building and Greenhouse, such as: glass panels, brick, wood, cement or tile floors, slate roof, along with variety of plant material samples.

Today, technological advancement has decreased our use of print maps for travel needs. Years ago, we relied heavily on printed maps (individual states, cities, towns, districts, or countries or a collection of maps within an Atlas), in order to navigate an area, whenever we planned a trip. For those who have been a member of American Automobile Association, members state their travel needs and receive a formal “travel tix”, highlighting key locations on printed map(s) or travel booklet, with additional travel tips on places to visit, restaurants/eateries, hotel accommodations, gas station locations, and special event or tour reservations. Looking back, many of us were also quite familiar with services such as “Map Quest”, when mapping out your travel to a new location nationwide, and some people still rely on this type of navigational tool. Presently, most of us engage in GPS tracking tools, to locate the fastest travel advisory for our intended destinations, or perhaps a slower route with the cheaper accessibility, whenever you don’t want to deal with the expense of tolls. Google Maps or other travel App services, such as WAZ, provide traffic advisories along the way, to keep you informed of areas to avoid, due to major traffic jams, vehicle accidents, or back-ups due to construction. 

In the years ahead, we shall witness even more technological advancements that will enhance the lives of many Blind, Deafblind, Visually-Impaired, Multiple-Disability, and Service Dog travelers. They will travel more confidently, while engaging in everyday employment, volunteer opportunities, and community activities. 

Link to Traveling to My Job At Russo's Market book in PDF format.

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