"Dealing with Vision Loss" is a powerful firsthand account of one person's belief system regarding the education of people with vision loss, both low vision and blind. The author is congenitally blind from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), so much of his perspective is inarguable and irrefutable as it is based upon his personal experiences.
Olver, 54, experienced much of the educational evolution from primarily a "residential school" emphasis to that of public schools and the principles of inclusion brought about by Public Law 94 142, the Education of the Handicapped Act of 1975. This perspective is evident in his writing.
Olver's work is neither textbook nor typical autobiography, however. His effort uses broad general citations rather than explicit APA style references. He cites statistics with a general indication of where they came from and when, but does not give sufficient information for the reader to search out and verify the source and accuracy. This is especially true with statistics regarding employment and under employment. Indeed, the text does not include a reference page where the curious reader may extract the citation. He rationalizes this process by indicating web sites that the reader may visit to extract data.
However, aside from these minor nuances, many of Olver's arguments and perspectives are well founded to the point that it would be an excellent reference for a new professional, paraprofessional, parent, or family member of a person experiencing vision loss. The manuscript offers as an appendix a fairly complete reference guide that may prove invaluable to its intended audience.
It was refreshing that Olver did not choose to demonstrate personal preference in his narrative regarding consumer groups. He described the missions and importance of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the American Council of the Blind (ACB), and the Blinded Veterans of America (BVA) with respect.
The text is printed in large print and is very well organized. It is also available on CD. It reflects the issues of placement options, learning/reading medium, orientation and mobility (O&M), accessibility, psycho social issues of blindness/visual impairment, relationships with siblings and parents, and the author's beliefs regarding what should be expected from the person who is blind by parents, siblings, and significant others.
Although Olver's work is informative, it sometimes lacks consistency throughout the text. A prime example is when he refers to himself as a "Y person who is blind, rather than a blind person." Yet, throughout the text Olver refers to "blind students," "blind children" and "blind adults." This inconsistency is an annoyance to the reader who values the practice of putting the person first.
A major point of contention is Olver's simplification of O&M strategies, especially street crossing. Indeed, a literal adherence to his street-crossing techniques may prove dangerous to the uninformed and uninitiated. For example, his advice suggesting that "the key [to lighted street crossings] is not to get too antsy and go when you hear traffic moving Y chances are that it is going to turn. So wait until you are familiar enough with the traffic pattern and then go" is both relative and subjective. While this is a very loose description of the process of what many refer to as "intersection analysis" and lighted street-crossing procedure (Hill & Ponder, 1976; Jacobson, W. 1993; LaGrow & Weessies, 1994) it may, as worded, make the practicing certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS) cringe because it could be too loosely interpreted and it marginalizes a key component to independent travel. Consider yourselves warned! To Olver's credit, however, he is not trying to teach street crossing; he is simply describing the process that he uses.
In other aspects regarding O&M, Olver is thorough and effective in rationalizing his beliefs. One point that I found myself totally agreeing with is when he suggests that a bus passenger who is blind should sit close to and across from the driver. This opinion is seldom espoused, yet it is completely logical; sitting right behind a driver makes communication difficult because of the Plexiglas shield and visibility may be poor depending upon the driver's mirror. This was an example of sound advice from a person who has learned from experience the problems associated with a driver who has forgotten about a passenger who is blind and then drives far beyond the passenger's desired stop.
A final critique is regarding Olver's comments regarding the cause of Braille illiteracy. Olver states "… many students have graduated high school functionally illiterate because school districts were unwilling to hire competent teachers in this area." Indeed, where is the data that supports this notion? I suggest that in many cases there may have been no qualified teachers to be found, too few qualified teachers to go around, and/or an uninformed admissions and release committee. With the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the issue of teaching braille is no longer subject to any misinterpretation, unless it is deliberate. Braille must be taught unless it is deemed inappropriate by the ARC.
I believe that Olver's work would be of some value to all audiences associated with the field of blindness and visual impairment. It is a terrific effort written in easy-to-understand terminology and may prove invaluable to the parent, sibling, educator, and significant other of people who are blind, birth through adulthood and beyond.
Dealing with Vision Loss by Fred Olver is available through Authorhouse, 1 800 839 8640.
Hill, E., & Ponder, P. (1976). Orientation and Mobility Techniques: A Guide for
the Practitioner. New York: American Foundation for the Blind.
Jacobson, W.H. (1993). The Art and Science of Teaching Orientation and Mobility to Persons with Visual Impairments. New York: AFB Press.
LaGrow, S. & Weessies, M. (1994). Orientation and mobility: Techniques for
independence. Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunsmore.
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