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OMI Client Gains Confidence to Travel Independently

Wednesday June 05, 2024

A woman stands confidently holding her white cane.

GDB grad Callie Gray of Miami, Florida loves to spend time at the beach, visit comedy clubs, and attend concerts. Her favorite band is U2, whose performance she recently attended at the Sphere in Las Vegas. 

Since suddenly losing her vision in 2020, Callie has been learning how to navigate the world in a new way. She enrolled in hometown orientation and mobility classes to develop skills to travel safely with a white cane. But after completing the courses she still felt that she needed more training. In May 2024, she enrolled in GDB’s Orientation and Mobility Immersion program to learn a broader range of skills for safe, independent travel. In particular, she wanted to overcome her fear of crossing busy streets. 

GDB’s immersive OMI program teaches O&M skills related to guide dog travel but also includes a wide range of O&M skills training. At her Graduation Ceremony after completing the weeklong program, Callie said she was grateful for attending the comprehensive program. “I feel like now I can get outside and have a life outside my 900-square-foot apartment. Previously, I was scared to even contemplate crossing an intersection.”

The program teaches clients how to use auditory information like traffic sounds to remain orientated and to achieve correct alignment during general travel and street crossings. Clients also learn how to use auditory information to analyze different intersections to determine the best time to initiate street crossings. “I learned more in one day at GDB than I did in my previous two OMI classes at home.” 

Callie credited her fellow OMI classmates for their encouragement and support throughout the program. “I have been inspired by my classmates James, Matt, David, Stephanie, and Rose--everyone here who set their goals and are doing what they need to do to live their best lives.” 

Callie also thanked GDB’s OMI trainers and other staff for their support as well. “It’s just been really wonderful.  I appreciate each and every one of you and the grace that has been shown to me during my week here.”

One of the highlights of the week was when Callie had the opportunity to walk with a guide dog.  “We started off a little bumpy because I’m used to the tactile feedback I get with a cane. But once I began to trust Leah, the guide dog GDB paired me with, we found our groove and soon sped along the path. It was so freeing. Leah then took me back to the gate where we started. I was blown away by what these dogs can do.”

Back at home, Callie has connected with fellow GDB alums on Facebook who have encouraged her to apply for a guide dog, despite her fears that she might experience rideshare denials as a guide dog user. While it’s illegal for rideshare drivers to deny rides to people with service dogs, denials still happen. “People who have experienced rideshare denials with their guide dogs have told me that having a guide dog is still totally worth it,” says Callie, adding, I think I’d really benefit from the companionship and confidence a guide dog could offer me so I’m leaning in that direction.”

In the meantime, Callie has been practicing her O&M skills with her white cane. She successfully navigated her town’s large public library by identifying landmarks in the vast building to get to the talking books section. “It was the first time I didn’t have to accept someone’s assistance to get there, so I consider it a big win. While I may do things a bit differently than a sighted person, in the end, I achieve the same goal.” 

Callie also plans to practice crossing street intersections near her home. She’ll have a few sighted friends with her to ensure she stays safe. “I’m still building my confidence in this area, but I’m feeling really positive about putting the skills I learned at GDB into practice.” For the first time since losing her sight, Callie says she has hope. “I can picture a future now, going to the YMCA, hanging out at Starbucks, and even shopping at Target. Thanks to GDB, my journey is just beginning.”

GDB’s OMI courses are held throughout the year at either one of our campuses (San Rafael, California or Boring, Oregon) and through our partner organization at Earle Baum Center in Santa Rosa, CA. The OMI program is free of charge and offers other services such as assistive technology training, low vision and auditory assessments, psychology services, and independent living skills. Our work is made possible by the generous support of our donors and volunteers; we receive no government funding.

Learn more about our OMI program.

Donate to support more OMI clients like Callie.

Categories: GDB Alumni, GDB Community, O&M Immersion Program