In June, I was grateful to be invited by my employer to attend a Helen Keller Achievement Awards Ceremony / Dinner presented by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) in New York City, NY (NYC), with my wife Kathy, colleagues and other attendees. This trip was my second opportunity to travel on a commercial airline since losing all of my eyesight. After I received the invitation to attend the event, I immediately started my planning and preparation to facilitate a successful trip that would hopefully be as trouble free as possible. I describe my trip preparation in a past blog post I wrote entitled Employee of the Year.
At the Helen Keller Achievement Awards Ceremony / Dinner I truly enjoyed listening to the people who introduced the award recipients, describing the work the recipients do to assist the visually impaired or blind by improving the quality of life, enhancing job opportunities by reducing barriers by increasing accessibility. I also enjoyed listening to the recipients humbly accept their awards and explain some of what they did to achieve this meaningful recognition.
The following day I was invited to go to AFB’s corporate headquarters and take a tour through the Helen Keller archives museum and meet with AFB. Being completely blind myself and belonging to some blind / low vision organizations in my local area, I have heard a few things about Helen Keller. During the tour I was pleased to learn many new things about Helen Keller. Now I have a better understanding of what a wonderful and remarkable person she was, and how she has helped change the world to assist blind, visually impaired, deaf, and hard of hearing, as well as many other people.
SIGHTSEEING with My Wife: The Art of Using All My Senses
This was my first trip to NYC, therefore I wanted to take advantage of my short time in-between meetings and award ceremonies to see (sense) some sights. With my wife Kathy’s assistance we walked on foot paths next to the Hudson River near the 911 Memorial towards Battery Park. Kathy described many wonderful statues, memorials, flowers, trees, old iron fences, old fashion street lamps, and other beautiful and distinctive old style architecture built with many bricks. I took the time to touch some of these objects so I could sense their texture and physical size. This enabled me to more accurately imagine what these objects looked like in my minds-eye. She also described the color and perceived depth and width of the river, as she also described the Statue of Liberty at a distance across the river. She also described the many ferries and boats on the river, and helicopters flying above the river. The same day after our AFB meeting and tour we walked from Madison Square Garden and Pennsylvania (PENN) Station to 26th Street then towards 51st Street, Madison Avenue, Broadway Avenue and many streets in-between. On 34th Street Kathy described Macy’s department store (the largest in the world we were told). She also described the Empire State Building, Time square, Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We went into St. Patrick’s Cathedral and since it was a warm day the cool temperature in the Cathedral was an exhilarating and pleasant treat. We walked throughout this remarkable large old Cathedral as Kathy described the many carvings, statues and stained glass windows. To help me visualize how large this Cathedral is in my minds-eye I felt one of the very large columns that held up a portion of the large roof. The column was so large I could not wrap my arms around it, and it felt like it was made of stone, or a concrete material. I took this opportunity to sit down on one of the many pews in the Cathedral and prayed. After we left the Cathedral we passed Radio City Music Hall, many other landmarks and numerous stores. I truly applaud my wife’s site guiding technique and expertise, walking through NYC, evading hundreds of people, obstacles, yellow cabs, cars, and crossing busy streets with a variety of Hard (90 degree angles) and (Soft) curb cuts that gently sloped down at each intersection. All of this navigation was accomplished while at times I could not hear Kathy’s verbal instructions warning me about upcoming obstacles due to the loud traffic, and sirens from police cars and fire engines. Luckily I have learned to feel Kathy’s body movement with either my left hand on her right shoulder, or right upper arm with my right hand on my support cane while she sight guides me. With this technique I can react to her body movement and not rely on any verbal cues. By the time we did our very quick walking tour of mid town New York, it was getting close to dinner so we searched for a taxi. After observing which streets had the most taxies driving down the streets, we strategically placed ourselves on one of these streets in a location in which a taxi could easily pull up to the curb. By using this technique we soon found a taxi to take us back to our hotel in time for a wonderful dinner with a co-worker. After our wonderful meal and great conversations we went back to our hotel and prepared to leave for home the next day.
The Rest of the Story
Kathy and I had an incredible time listening to the remarkable people who were recognized for their work and received the Helen Keller Achievement Awards, listening about the valuable work AFB is doing to help the blind, visually impaired and visiting NYC briefly. Everyone we met on our trip was thoughtful, courteous and seemed to celebrate life and companionship.
A few days after we returned home we celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We honored and celebrated our life together, our companionship, devotion and our never ending love that will continue for all eternity. Read another blog post I wrote about our 20th Anniversary entitled:
Anniversaries: What they mean to you.
Have you had the opportunity to take a tour with assistance? This assistance does not need to be sight guiding or verbal descriptions, like the invaluable assistance I received. Maybe you have other challenges or disabilities which require other types of assistance when traveling and sightseeing you want to share? Has anyone attended or received a Helen Keller Achievement Award? Any other thoughts or comments?
We look forward to your comments to help us all grow personally and professionally, and expand our knowledge and awareness.
Global Dialogue Center