Sadly, I must admit that the actual wish to become independent came pretty late, in my opinion.
During the first four years of ordinary school, I didn’t really like my cane. Sure, sometimes it became quite handy getting around at a couple of places with a lot of stairs and obstacles, but I got too much used to other people who would always accompany me, making sure that I’m getting from one spot to the other.
Luckily though, my point of view started changing when I came to Marburg. After a couple of months there, I was finally able to get around on the school campus; but I was a lazy person anyway. When my cane teacher offered me to try making my way from my group to the campus, I rather refused and accepted her offer to guide me there, just because it was quicker.
After the first school year, my o&m (orientation and mobility) lessons were over, and when I finally decided to get more independent in the city of Marburg – most importantly getting from my group to the school – without being dependent of an educator, no o&m teachers were available at this time. One o&m teacher came around for round about 4 lessons in a time manner of two weeks, but it was not enough time to get the approval. In other words, I was caught up in my group for another year, unless one of the educators or volunteers on duty had some time for a walk into the city.
Finally, in 2009, I got a new cane teacher, who finally! gave the approval for the way from my group to the school campus. A couple of weeks later, I was able to go to the nearby supermarket and later, getting deeper into the city center was also less than a problem for me and my teacher.
Concerning approvals and how to get them: Students with low vision under 18 have to make an appointment with one of their educators to accompany them on a certain route. If the accompanying educator doesn’t see a problem, he or she will give the approval for this certain route.
The handling of blind students is more complicated, because they have to sign up to the waiting list and wait for the next available cane teacher, who will – in addition – check if you handle your cane right, pointing out possible mistakes and correcting them. He or she will then, finally, give the approval to the educators and to the student itself.
Should you – in any case – take routes you are not approved for without sighted and adult accompany, you won’t be ensured, should something happen to you. But, honestly, that didn’t stopped me in younger years from going a little further to have a kebab or taking shortcuts I wasn’t yet approved for. Besides, the kebab restaurant is on the same side of the pavement as the supermarket, only a few meters further. And the “shortcut” I mentioned was a traffic light to cross the street. At this time, I was only approved for the routes from my group to any of the pavements, but in theory, I was not approved for changing the pavements elsewhere, although I crossed properly at the traffic light. You don’t necessarily have to understand that; it’s just byrocracy, and they just want to make sure that we are okay. Furthermore, that’s long gone and I don’t have to deal with that anymore.
Of course, it was – especially in the beginning – pretty difficult to get around myself. And when I got lost or nobody picked me up at the appropriate time, I was scared and helpless, not knowing what to do. But that changed pretty quickly: Should I get lost, there are always people nearby I can ask for help. Additionally, I can call up whomever I am supposed to meet up with to check on him/her.
When getting around in general, you cannot expect that everything has to work as planned. Normally, for me at least, things work just fine. But there are always situations where something doesn’t work as planned, but that doesn’t mean “game over”! If something doesn’t seem to work, you make it work; whether you have to ask other people or make some calls to get things arrange, do not give up!