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for the Blind

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ideas to work with a wheelchair user when leading me

Hello, My name is Armando Maldonado and I'm currently seeking help/information in the following. My girlfriend is in a wheelchair and when we go out, it is hard for both of us to come to terms when she tries leading me around obstacles such as bikes, pedestrians and bushes that have low-lying branches. It has come to our attention that we are struggling as to ways she can communicate with me when we are in public since at times I am unable to hear her due to high traffic. Any suggestions as to how she can better lead me in a tight situation so that we can both enjoy our time on our dates? She is concerned that I at times run people off the sidewalks, as well as I have a hard time holding onto her chair due to the back wheels not allowing me room to walk. She is an electric wheelchair user and is fully sighted. Any suggestions would very much be appreciated and you can email me at:
Thanks for your time anc cooperation.

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Re: ideas to work with a wheelchair user when leading me

Hello, I'm totally blind and use an power wheelchair. I have many blind friends who walk with me. Generally they use a white cane in their free hand and just hang on to one side of the back of the chair so for example they will hold lightly the back right hand handle of the chair witheir left hand and cane and walk along behind me. Hope this helps.

Re: ideas to work with a wheelchair user when leading me

Hello, Armando, Sounds like you have a good system that just needs a little fine tuning. I'm an Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist but thought you might be best helped by another O&M who has had a lot of experience working with people who use wheelchairs. I passed along your question to Dr. Sandy Rosen, Program Coordinator in Orientation and Mobility at
San Francisco State University and she had a couple of ideas. Since it is hard to stand behind the electric wheel chair, you might want to try to extend the arm of the chair so that you safely clear the wheels. You would need to get a bit creative here -- maybe a pipe from a hardware store would work. Sandy mentioned that she knew another couple in a similar situation who used a non-motorized chair. The sighted guide did the steering and the person who was visually impaired pushed the chair from behind. I'm wondering if in certain situations another wheelchair might be available.

Communication between you two could be greatly enhanced by an FM system. Your audiologist could help you find the right equipment that would allow you to talk to each other when there is a lot of background noise. Let me know if any of these ideas work for you or if you've had another solution.

All the best,
Mary D'Apice

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