Second Sense: 2017-2018

Vision loss is about more than just loss of sight.  It is about loss of identity, loss of confidence, loss of mobility and loss of independence.  Second Sense works with its clients to provide the emotional support and practical training that allow them to move beyond vision loss to live active, productive lives.

When a person loses their vision, they become more dependent upon others.  This dependence feeds their depression and drives their inactivity.  They no longer feel safe traveling, become dependent upon rides from family, friends or special transit services.  This inability to travel independently prevents many people with vision loss from working, volunteering, socializing, and being an active member of their community.

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) is a core skill for someone with vision loss.  With this skill, a person can safely and efficiently navigate through most any situation — from an unfamiliar sidewalk to an elevated train platform. 

With funding from the Washington Square Health Foundation, Second Sense was able to hire a full-time Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist. This greatly increased their ability to serve all clients, especially those who are underserved (including seniors and people who are undocumented).

During O&M training, clients learn to use their remaining senses, a white cane, and specific techniques to determine their position in their environment and safely move about.  Training begins indoor, learning cane skills to navigate safely and efficiently.  They build from there, learning new skills and apply existing skills to new situations. 

These skills include using the white cane to identify doorways, curbs, walls, hazards and any other object.  Clients learn to use revolving doors, navigate stairs, use elevators and walk a straight line.  The O&M instructor works individually with each client to develop routes to specific destinations.  This can include traveling on public transit, walking to the grocery store, or coming downtown to Second Sense.  They travel these routes together, developing ways to overcome any barriers (railroad tracks, sidewalk cafes) and using this as a way to practice the new skills. 

In the second year of this program expansion, 86 clients received orientation and mobility training.  Of these, 88% completed training and achieved 95% of the goals they listed in the training plan.  Clients who complete this training report using their new skills every day.

Different clients have different needs and different goals.  Most clients are new to vision loss and require up to 40 hours of training over a one-year period.  Other clients are experienced cane travelers who just need a few lessons to learn a new route or intersection.