Important points for instructor to explain before teaching deaf-blind people to travel in public places
Instructor explains to student:
1. At the beginning of each lesson, you and I will decide how close I will be during each part of the lesson.
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2. If I approach you during the lesson, I will always immediately give you my signal (name-sign). If someone approaches you without that signal, assume that it is not me.
NOTE to instructor: I had to learn this the hard (and scary!) way with two women who had Ushers syndrome (deaf with RP) -- I hope you don't have similar experiences!
3. I will often pretend that I do not know you, to allow you to interact by yourself.
One of the women got into a stranger's car during a night lesson, thinking the stranger was me (yikes!), and before I could reach them they drove off!
Fortunately the driver drove her to the destination.
The other woman was riding the escalator out of a dark metro station into the bright sunlight when a tall, muscular man approached and started to guide her down the escalator back into the metro station.
She followed him obediently, thinking he was me -- we can't ever assume that our student will recognize us by our body shape!
NOTE to instructor: Some situations need an additional explanation immediately prior to the pertinent lessons, as written below:
4. If I need to contact you in an emergency or pull you out of danger, I will try to first give the "X" emergency signal, so you will know we must act quickly.
- Getting assistance to cross streets:
When you prepare to get assistance to cross streets and we agree that I do not need to be nearby to monitor for your safety, I will go away so people think you are alone. Be aware that I am not close enough to intervene if you place yourself in a dangerous situation.
NOTE to instructor: You should not leave students if they need close monitoring for their safety.
- Interaction with observations for feedback:
If we plan for you to interact with strangers by yourself (for example to communicate with a salesperson or a bus driver or get assistance or information from other people), I will observe, and after you are finished I will tell you what happened. While I am observing, I will pretend I am a stranger and I don't know you. If someone realizes I know you, I will leave immediately, because if I don't leave, people will not behave as they would if you were alone, and you won't learn how effective are your strategies to communicate with the public. After I leave, although I will not be able to observe what happens and report back to you, you will have an opportunity to interact by yourself.
NOTE to instructor: If the lesson involves having the student interact independently in a situation where you have determined that the student needs close monitoring for his safety, or if you are unable to leave (for example when riding a bus), and people realize you are with the student, you should not leave him. Instead, you should either abort the part of the lesson where the student interacts with the public independently or, after the lesson, you should report to the student that the people with whom he was interacting knew that he was not alone.
NOTE to instructor: The "X" emergency signal is tracing the letter X on the person's back or hand; you will probably need to explain this to your student, as many deaf-blind people don't know about the signal.
5. You should do as much independently as possible during a lesson (though using good judgment), so I am able to observe how you perform the task. However, if it is prudent to seek assistance to accomplish the task, do so; knowing how and when to get assistance is part of independent travel.
6. Sometimes when we are together during mobility lessons, people may approach us to talk to you or me. We need to determine whether you want me to interpret in these situations and if so, how it should be done.
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