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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

walking groups, a way to meet people in local community

Its finally spring. I am in the Eastern US and we had one of those winters where it snowed and snowed and snowed. Sidewalks were impassable. My routine of walking two to three miles a day with my Seeing Eye dog partner came to a stop.
Now that winter is over, I have started walking again. Others are walking with me in local woods. The trails are more fun to walk when you go with others. For one thing, they can point out flowers and talk about how trees are beginning to bud. As a blind person, I know about such things in a general way. But I wouldn't know, for example, that the whole trail is lined with blue periwinkles. (They are really tiny flowers, by the way.) My dog wanted to eat them.
We can all notice birds. People I have hiked with taught me their various songs. So I now can share that knowledge of birdsong when I hike.
The group I joined is one of several who get together at a particular time and walk. Some groups are interested in particular things such as birds or plant life. Others just love walking and prefer a bit of company.
Side benefits from walking on a regular basis include a more trim figure and better sleep patterns. We get out in the sun. My dog stays fit. I fit into my slacks in a more attractive way. And, oh yes, for those of you interested in meeting people, here's a way.
These groups evolve. Members come and go and come back again as their lives change. People get together after the walks for coffee or to celebrate somebody's birthday. Somebody in the group helps somebody else in the group when they are sick. We share silly stories. People ask me questions about my life and about my Seeing Eye dog. We let each other know about things going on in town such as music or theater.
For those of you who would hesitate to walk certain places by yourself or with a cane, walking with others means you can go at a good pace and get in more exercise than you might get on your own. One way to walk with another person is to hold his or her arm, above the elbow. This way, I can tell where the guide is going, since I am slightly behind her.
Another way of walking together is for the sighted guide to hold on to a "tether" which can be a foot or two long. I have held on to one end of a dog's leash and my guide has held onto the other end. The "tether" method is sometimes more comfortable than holding onto somebody's arm.
If this sounds like fun, here are some ideas.
Check with local community centers for the existance of groups in your area.
Put in quotes in a search engine the name of your town and walking group or birding.
"mytown birding"
"mytown walking group"
"Mytown hiking"
These official groups may in turn lead you to other people who are walking in a more unofficial way at more varied times.
The internet is a great resource for meeting people locally.

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Re: walking groups, a way to meet people in local community

What a great suggestion! It's hard to find opportunities for exercise and recreation...and especially for meeting new people. As a parent, I appreciate your insight and your willingness to share. Enjoy the spring!

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