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Spring 2019

Summer 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Scott Addison, COMS, Region 14

Education Service Center, Abilene, TX

Abstract: Jay Stiteley of the Seeing Eye went to Abilene to meet with consumer groups, service agencies, and students about dog guides and a range of other issues related to blindness.

Key Words: Effective Proactices, blind, visually impaired, Orientation & Mobility, dog guides, The Seeing Eye

Mr. Jay Stiteley, known simply to the friendly folks here in Texas as “Jay”, visited our schools recently. Jay is an associate manager of the outreach division with Seeing Eye Inc. of Morristown New Jersey. The Seeing Eye,® Inc. is the oldest existing dog guide school in the world. Many know Mr. Stiteley as an inspirational speaker, adroit traveler and experienced dog guide handler. Jay lives with wife Karen, a teacher of the visually impaired, in Houston, Texas. Jay and I, along with others, sought to promote skills and understanding through effective collaboration during the course of his three day tour of Region 14 in West Texas.

Collaboration

Jay and I arrived at an Abilene, Texas coffee shop and bookstore on a cold Saturday in late January, to meet briefly with American Council of the Blind (ACB) and National Federation of the Blind (NFB) members regarding the Braille awareness event planned for later in the day. We eventually made our way across the street to a local restaurant for lunch where we met up with students, parents and professionals.

Skills

We seated twelve students and collaborators for lunch. It was soon apparent that the almost-nine-year-old, Jordan, was not happy with his seat assignment. He was seated on the end of the table with his stale old mobility instructor (the author of this article) that he’d heard for years droning on and on about such boring things as “watch your arc width, center that hand, and is that a good place to park your cane?” I could see Jordan’s wheels turning… all the action was clearly taking place on the other end of the table, and the best thing was, there was another blind guy down there just like him talking about really interesting stuff! Jordan was reseated, and we got down to some of the best Italian food I’ve had in quite some time. Jay instructed, modeled, and seemed to delight in the audience we’d assembled for him. He helped the kids review the Braille menu, address wait staff, figure tip and tax, and even offered tips on how to use a bread pusher! We had cordial conversation, a nice lunch, and a good opportunity to learn and practice skills.

Following lunch we trekked back across the street to the coffee shop in a collaborative effort designed to promote Braille awareness (understanding/skills). The ACB and NFB members, along with Jay, set up technology and handouts for anyone interested. The students set up Mountbatten and Perkins Braillers and other technology. For two hours the children and adults demonstrated Braille reading and writing. The Certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired (CTVI) from the West Central Texas Shared Service Agreement (SSA) special education cooperative and the Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) from Region 14 Education Service Center networked and answered questions.

Understanding

On Monday we took the show on the road to schools in Region 14. In addition, we visited the local Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Division for Blind Services (DBS) office. East Ridge Elementary in Sweetwater, Texas was our first stop. There we met with a third grader with visual impairment, his classmates, and about one hundred other interested youngsters and teacher-types. Jay presented information on dog guide travel and living as a person with blindness. He also talked about ways he works around visual impairment by using his dog and other skills learned over the years. In addition, Jay provided information regarding dog guide etiquette.

After lunch Jay repeated his lecture to an equally large and enthusiastic gathering of elementary school students and teachers at Bonham Elementary in Abilene, Texas. A nine year old with blindness attends this school. Local media covered Jay’s address and printed a nice article. We were very pleased about the coverage, as the information provided in the article did a nice job explaining blindness and visual impairment (understanding).

Our next stop was Mann Middle School in Abilene for a brief one-on-one visit. The student with blindness at this school had an opportunity to ask Jay questions related to dog guide travel, check out Jay’s dog guide Hagar while out of harness, and examine the harness itself.

Jay and I eventually headed to the local DBS office before a final sprint to the airport where Jay was to catch a late afternoon flight to Florida for more ambassadorship (skills, collaboration, understanding). Upon entering the small state-issue sedan for the trip to the airport, Jay remarked, “Hagar is getting a bit tired…” This was Jay’s diplomatic way of saying, “That’s enough after 120 miles of travel, three schools, and the DBS office!” I promptly retorted, “I aim to get my money’s worth!” Quick wit that he is, Jay responded by telling me that “two times nothing is still nothin’!” You see, the Seeing Eye sends Jay all over the country to speak to interested parties regarding visual impairment and dog guide travel at no cost to the host!

I want to thank Jay Stiteley, the Seeing Eye, local adults with visual impairment, professionals, parents, and students for making this road show possible. Oh, and thanks to Hagar as well; he was a very good boy and seemed to enjoy our travels despite the time spent a small state-issue sedan!

Editor’s Note: Scott Addison is the orientation and mobility consultant for Region 14 Education Service Center in Abilene, and former Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired residential instructor and paraprofessional.

Jay Stiteley sent the following about his availability for events such as his January trip to Abilene as described by Scott.

If you would be interested in arranging a presentation to learn about the excitement, skills, and responsibilities of independent travel through the use of a Seeing Eye dog, please contact Jay Stiteley by phone at 713-664-7128, or send an e-mail to: <>. Presentations can be stand-alone talks to students, or serve as part of an event or workshop for parents and/or students.