Blind World Magazine

Seeing life in a blind world.

January 13, 2006.
Columbus Telegram - Columbus,NE,USA.

COLUMBUS - Dave Wallick views the world differently after graduating from the Nebraska Orientation Center for the Blind in Lincoln.

Wallick, 59, a Vietnam veteran and former local business owner, said his life was drastically altered when he began to lose his sight because of diabetes.

"I was devastated when suddenly I lost my sight and my life took a dramatic change," Wallick wrote in a letter during his seven months at the center. "My first reactions were denial and depression. I felt totally lost."

Wallick also wrote that people at the center taught him valuable lessons about preserving the quality of life he had before his sight deteriorated.

Fatos Floyd, the center's director, said Wallick was an exemplary student and, upon graduating, overcame many of the difficulties he faced before entering the program. "Dave came with a lot of skills and a lot of knowledge," Floyd said. "He is really a smart individual."

He just needed to regain the confidence to utilize his abilities, she said.

Wallick said Floyd and the other instructors were vital during his journey to regain control of his life.

"The instructors at the center made me realize that I was not helpless," he wrote. "I just needed to learn new ways of doing things" through alternative techniques for the blind.

"Most of all, I learned self-confidence again," he said.

Relearning how to accomplish everyday activities and home management to become independent again was a challenge.

Part of the program included a shop class and the only specialized instrument he received was a click-rule.

Wallick said he was scared to use the electric saw and other tools.

"I learned to use a click-rule, and I was able to use power tools safely without the aid of sight," Wallick wrote. "I even made a small oak table that my wife loves."

Another portion of the curriculum requires students to learn to navigate around Lincoln in sleep shades that block out light.

Walking around downtown "a bus ran over my cane," Wallick said. "It scared the 'bejeebies' out of me."

Wallick eventually learned to use a Braille compass, the position of the sun, traffic sounds and the bus system to navigate around Lincoln.

Wallick said the biggest obstacle in Columbus, for himself and other visually impaired residents, is the lack of good quality public transportation, especially because he lives a few miles outside of town. He depends on his wife and neighbors for rides.

Wallick also learned to read Braille at the center, but said such printing is not as commonplace in Columbus as it is in Lincoln.

In Columbus, "I have walked into the wrong restroom before," he said. "It was not clearly marked with Braille."

Wallick said another nuisance is the lack of audio ATMs at banks and of Braille menus at restaurants in Columbus.

Aside from those inconveniences, Wallick said, in general, people have been helpful.

"Most people in Columbus are willing to help, " he said, but most of the time he relies on his wife to assist him.

On one occasion, in Lincoln, Wallick and a few others in the program encountered a handful of people who were not understanding of visual impairment.

"There were some kids driving around and yelling things at us," Wallick said. "They are the ones who are ignorant."

Floyd said Wallick was a great student who developed a positive attitude and helped others do the same.

"One of the things I really appreciated with Dave was that he helped others a lot with their lessons," she said, "and he worked with clients after hours almost daily. He was a very good role model."

Now Wallick continues to tutor GED students in Columbus, something he had stopped doing when his sight failed. Wallick said he recently became involved with the local visually impaired peer support (VIPS) group upon graduating.

"It is nice to have peers who are having some of the same problems you are" and who can relate, Wallick said.

Shirley Schmidt, a VIPS coordinator, said the group was proud of Wallick's accomplishment. She said VIPS is organized to inform the community that help and support groups are available and they provide updated information on medicines and new technologies to aid the visually impaired.

Carol Streeter, another coordinator for the group, said the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired provides information on ways to improve the quality of life and make it possible to remain at home through workshops and other programs.

"We also have discussions about our impairments and ways we overcome" to motivate one another, she said.

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