When a family member, spouse, partner or close friend becomes blind, predictably, questions and emotions come up for both the person and their family. While blindness training is available to the person who is new to low vision or blindness, the role of their sighted partner/counterpart and the nature of their partnership can be challenged. At the same time it’s an opportunity for learning, dialogue and connection with other couples that can turn out to be a pathway to understanding for both partners.
The LightHouse has had years of experience providing training to persons new to blindness or low vision and we have always understood that family and friends are key to successful learning. On a beautiful weekend last month, six couples from as far north as Elk (Mendocino Coast) and as far south as Watsonville joined LightHouse staff at Enchanted Hills Retreat for a concentrated dose of learning and sharing experiences. Throughout the weekend these supportive, fun and dedicated couples participated in conversation regarding the “adjustment” they were experiencing, both independently and together. They jumped with gusto into the interactive curriculum provided on Orientation and Mobility, Independent Living Skills and Access Technology.
For example, with the encouragement of their blind or low vision partner, each sighted partner had the opportunity to learn wearing a training eyeshade. The intent and outcome of this experience was to understand training methods, focusing on the task at hand, not what one can, or can’t see. All partners participated without hesitation and walked away with newfound understanding. Because the weekend was designed so that participants would learn by example, the blind or visually impaired spouse took the role of co-teacher of the hands-on skills. The weekend also included morning hikes, Saturday Happy Hour and the opportunity to listen to and talk with a panel of couples, including LightHouse Board members Josh Miele and Chris Downey and their sighted spouses, who are peers with similar life experiences.
Keh-Ming Lin, sighted husband of Wen-Ling Lin, developed an understanding of human-guide techniques, the value of the long cane, developing safe and effective knife skills for cooking without vision. Student Wen-Ling said, “Changing vision affects not only the person who is blind or low vision, but also that of their loved ones. I am so glad LightHouse has provided the rare opportunity for us to have the chance to tap into each other’s world, and helped to facilitate our continued dialogue of “changing vision, changing life.” Her husband, Keh-Ming said, “It was a truly enchanting weekend.”
If you or someone you know might be interested in Changing Vision Changing Life or future Couples training, please contact Debbie Bacon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-694-7357.