If you were to be a fly on the wall at the Seeing eye in Morristown, NJ,
youd see some pretty unusual behavior, and you might wonder if the students had either lost their minds or forgotten their manners or both. Where else do people praise their dogs for finding their assigned chair in the dining room? Youd see me patting the back of the chair and exclaiming, Good boy Cisco. 4 times a day, youd see 20 blind people standing out on a paved area, encouraging their dogs to circle around them on long leashes and get inspired to empty. We chant to our dogs, Park time. Park time. And then we praise and even cheer when our dogs perform their eliminations. Youd think we were parents cheering for our babies to Go potty for mommy. Where else would you see people deliberately letting a door close behind them, even when it closes in the face of a fellow student? You wouldnt know that that is the best way to prevent injuries. Its much easier to find the handle of a closed door than to guess how wide open the door is and how long it will be open. Better to hear it close, so you can tell exactly where it is. On the dining room tables, you might not notice it, but the real sugar packets are always in the sugar bowls with 2 handles, and the artificial sweeteners are always in the one with no handles. The salt shaker is tall and pointy, while the peppers are shorter. The servers for the meals say Heres your salad, or heres your coffee, instead of just plunking it down and leaving you to discover it eventually. Want seconds? Dont care for the entrée? No problem. You can have something else, and it is delivered to you with genuine friendliness. Where else does this happen other than at your Grandmas house? Youd see people praising door handles and the tops of stairways, elevator buttons, and the doors leading to the outside or the inside.
Most notably, youd hear people speaking to each other as they pass by in the hallway. What a novel idea. You would also hear people talking to their dogs, not only giving them commands, but also giving them praises or verbal corrections. Often, one student would realize that the person they wanted to talk to was in the room, because he recognized the dogs name, and thus identified the person. You might wonder why there is carpet on some parts of the hallway and not on other parts. Breaks in the carpet mark certain locations, tactilely, so the blind students can tell if they are approaching the front door, the dining room, or a seating area. Nowhere else in my experience do I feel less blind than at The Seeing eye, unless it would be at Ski For Light.
Both organizations exist for people who are blind, but the people within these organizations know how to enable folks with vision problems to function as independently as possible. There is a Ski for Light culture too, but Ill save that subject for another day. I have a friend who literally lives for the next time he can go to the Seeing Eye, not that he wishes for a short life for his current dog, but that he loves being around other blind people, in an environment that doesnt make him feel like an outsider. In other words, at the Seeing eye, its perfectly normal to see 4 or 5 dogs under each dining table and to see each handler sitting with one foot firmly placed on his or her dogs leash to keep track of where that dogs head is and to make sure it doesnt get into trouble. Nobody thinks it odd if you enter a room and say Is there an empty chair? and its perfectly normal to pat adoor handle and say, Good boy.