Brandon is a 19-year old young man who was registered with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) in 2008 at the age of 13. Brandon was born legally blind due to a genetic condition, Albinism. Throughout his childhood, there were unsuccessful attempts at rehabilitation services, including Orientation and Mobility (O&M). As a young child, the Teacher for the Visually Impaired (TVI) & Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) insisted on him using a long cane. Brandon also had stereotypes about being seen as an individual who was blind. As a result, he rejected services during his teenage years.
Brandon’s CB Vocational Rehabilitation services began in 2010, with a focus on his preparation for college. He refused the long white cane, and stated that he could travel throughout his community fine without it. However, an MCB O&M assessment determined that Brandon avoided objects in his path with delayed reaction time, demonstrated no techniques for street crossings, had no experience with public transportation, or finding his way to new destinations. Although O&M services were recommended, no private or public school vision-loss services were implemented.
In June of 2012, Brandon graduated from high school and began MCB O&M adult services, although it remained a low priority as he continued to refuse the long cane. In combination with his usable vision, he found non-visual techniques helpful. Brandon was interested in attending college in Boston, making O&M slowly more of a priority. During “the cane” conversations, his COMS would note to Brandon how often he required verbal or touch cues to avoid an obstacle or hazard while in the unfamiliar Boston area. By this time, Brandon respected the need for “the cane” conversations, but would “rather fall on his face” than use a long cane.
Finally, the breakthrough came when Brandon agreed to at least try the long cane during O&M lessons. He desired the ability to travel in unfamiliar areas. After a year of preparing to attend college, including participating in O&M instruction, Brandon successfully attended his first couple of semesters of college. When orientating to the campus and classrooms, Brandon would use his cane. “Call it growing up,” he would say. Brandon frequently expresses his gratitude for the COMS “standing by him” when he resisted O&M and the long cane. He believes a “heavy hand” would have turned him away from instruction completely.
After meeting other individuals who are blind at an MCB-sponsored Independent Living Program, Brandon fully embraces aids that help him reach his goals. He keeps the long cane with him at all times. Brandon is a role model for teenagers who think they can “get by” without O&M instruction. Hopefully by sharing Brandon’s journey, others may realize that merely “getting by” will not suffice as opportunities begin to appear rapidly during early adulthood. Delaying much needed services can delay those opportunities.
This information is provided by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.