Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

When I first started losing my hearing, one of my biggest fears was that of losing my ability to travel independently. Whether it be across town or across the country, I've always loved being able to go where ever I wanted by myself. I decided early on that I was not going to let anything keep me from continuing to travel like this. And thanks to technology, and my fabulous dog, I am still traveling today. Here is just a small sample of one of our adventures
Yesterday after I came home from work, I realized I was out of some necessary items for cleaning. I would have let this wait until Friday, but you know the rule-- the moment you run out of paper towels and floor cleaner, that's when a dog gets sick. There was nothing for it but to venture to the Whole Foods for some needed items and maybe a treat or two. I harnessed up Laveau, grabbed my iPhone and braille display, and we set off.

I had checked Google Maps for the bus schedule, and gave myself plenty of time to walk the seven blocks to the stop. While crossing the road by my house we got a traffic check. This intersection is not controlled at all, and sometimes can look safe, but cars can come out of nowhere. We got about half way across the road, when I felt Laveau slam on the breaks, and stand in front of me. Seconds later, I felt the brush of air as a car drove passed. Thankfully there were only little roads left to cross until we got to the bus stop.

As we walked, I could smell the different aromas from the many restaurants in the area. My neighborhood has become rather famous for its many and varied restaurants. I noticed that the spider plants which grow outside of the juice bar were getting very long. I felt them brush my cheek as Laveau took me out and around them. She was very curious as to our destination, and every time we passed a familiar landmark, she would turn her head and pause, to let me know we were in front of a favorite place. The Mini-Mart, the doughnut shop, the juice bar, and the kennel where Baylee goes for day care all were pointed out to me. I think I could hire Laveau out as a tour guide!

Finally we got to the corner. Laveau lay in the grass, and I told her to "watch" which." She did. Lounging in the grass, only getting up when she saw the bus. She touched the harness handle to my leg-- my cue that the bus had arrived. I waited for the driver to deploy the ramp, and then we got on the bus. As I stopped to show the driver my ID which allows me to ride fixed-route buses for free, I told him I was deafblind and could he tap me on the shoulder when we got to the stop. Then I asked Laveau to find me a seat.

Once seated, I turned on my iPhone and braille display. I opened
<"Ariadne GPS">

This is a very inexpensive app which simply flashes the addresses and names of streets as you pass them. I especially like it while traveling by bus because it allows me to know where I am, and lets me know when I might be getting close to my stop. That way, if I think the driver has forgotten to tap me when I have arrived at the correct stop, I can remind him or her to do this when we are close.

This time, though the driver remembers. I get off the bus, walk to the corner, cross another street and wait for another bus. Rinse, repeat. Laveau is happiest when we are on the bus because it is nice and cool in there.

We arrive at the Whole Foods and the second bus driver helps me cross the busy street in front of the store. Then he leads me to a door, and leaves. I walk inside with Laveau, and something doesn't feel quite right. I know I'm in the right place-- the smell is right and the feeling under my feet and in the air is right. Laveau knows where we are going though and I feel her excitedly pull into the harness. We walk for a bit, and then I realize that Laveau is headed out to the parking garage. While this is not where I wanted to be, it is in a sense good that she did this, because now I know where I am for sure. I think Laveau was disappointed though, because we usually go to this store with friends or my SSP. I think she thought she'd find herself a nice comfy ride home in a car if she went to the parking garage.
At last, our shopping was done. I even got an ice mocha out of the deal. Since I bought several big and unwieldy items, like paper towels and the like which do not fit well into a backpack, I used IP relay on my iPhone to call a cab home. Laveau got the car ride after all.

Happy Independence Day, Y'all!

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