Jul 24, 2014
ROCHESTER, NY – The Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI) today officially opened its all-weather Outdoor Mobility Training Area. The 12,000 square foot addition adjacent to the Vision Rehabilitation Center of Excellence was 100 percent funded by philanthropic support and will improve ABVI’s ability to meet the needs of the people it serves that are blind or visually impaired.
“Many people, especially adults, who come to ABVI for services, tell us that with their vision loss they are afraid to travel, or even leave their homes,” said Nancy Nealon, Vice President of Vision Rehabilitation at ABVI. “Our experienced staff enhance the lives of these individuals by providing mobility training to go outdoors, to continue their joy of activities and the environment they used to love.”
Nealon notes that from initial conception through to its completion, the Outdoor Mobility Training Area was designed and built to successfully accommodate this type of training, and thus will have a “tremendous impact on the lives of many people.”
“ABVI is equipped to provide specialized teaching, individualized instruction and programming essential to building self-esteem and empowering the individuals we serve to become self-sufficient. The Outdoor Mobility Training Area is unique in that it is specifically designed with the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired in mind,” said Nealon.
These needs include:
- Improving outdoor auditory and travel skills.
- Orientation and mobility training in all weather conditions – initially learning in this private space to build confidence before negotiating public outdoor spaces.
- Increasing understanding of spatial concepts like object-to-object relationships, parallel and perpendicular, or the position of the sun, landmarks, and related cues.
- Enhancing perceptual skills.
- Learning and enhancing interpersonal skills like soliciting or refusing assistance.
- Developing balance and learning how to move through space more freely.
- Practice using a white cane for travel in sunshine, rain, or snow.
ABVI’s Outdoor Mobility Training Area also provides the agency with an expanded opportunity to give toddlers, children, or teenagers who are blind or visually impaired the ability to grow and experience life in a similar way to their sighted peers.
“The decreased ability of children who are blind or visually impaired to visually observe other young people and adults can have an impact on their interpersonal and social skills,” said Nealon, adding: “Significant vision loss can also impact their ability to appropriately develop gross motor skills.”
According to Nealon, there is a growing body of research regarding the negative consequences of the play deficit. When children play, they learn gross motor skills like running and jumping. They also learn how to respect one another when interacting and develop critical thinking and play skills without prompts from adults.
“The potential exists for children with visual impairments to have the same level of motor skills and fitness as their sighted peers. Various delays that children with significant vision loss often experience are predominantly a result of a lack of opportunities to participate in activities,” said Nealon.
ABVI’s Outdoor Mobility Training Area addresses these concerns by offering youth who have visual impairments the opportunity to have play experiences on outdoor playground equipment similar to a sighted child in a safe an enclosed area that allows for clinical training to teach the youth an array of physical and social skills.
Another reason why children who are blind or visually impaired may not have access to similar play experiences as their sighted peers, says Nealon, is that there is a lack of professional preparation that has created barriers to successful inclusion.
“The Outdoor Mobility Training Area gives us the ability to conduct training for professionals such as physical education instructors so that they have a better understanding of how to include children with visual impairments in their lesson plans,” said Nealon.
For more information on the training available through ABVI’s Outdoor Mobility Training Area, please contact ABVI’s Vision Rehabilitation department at (585) 232-1111 or (800) 640-6005.
Media inquiries, please contact Todd Pipitone, Public Relations Manager