October 27, 2014

WBRC Group goes White Water Rafting on the American River

Written By: Ann Nguyen, WBRC Recreation Therapy Intern

Photo: The WBRC Group at the ETC Campsite

Water splashing upon the shore near the Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC) campsite, rapids swelling up at every rocky turn, people filled rafts navigating downstream, ice cold water splashing up from all sides of the raft, and the elated cries of excitement were among some of the powerful images lingering in the minds of eight veterans from the WBRC as they came back from a wondrous white water rafting trip.  On August 15, 2014 WBRC recreation therapists, Rachel Smith and Lindsay Conner, teamed up with ETC certified white water rafting volunteer guides, including David Patten—WBRC visual skills supervisor—and Simone Riente—WBRC social worker—, to provide a whole weekend of white water rafting and camping along the South Fork of the American River.

Photo: The WBRC Group enjoys a meal at the ETC Campsite
From the campsite, to the staff, to the food, all the Veterans were very satisfied with what ETC provided.  After spending the night resting under the stars, the group was oriented to the rafts and embarked on a 12 mile white water journey down the American River.  Before this experience many of the Veterans who went on the trip could not fathom how individuals with visual impairments could navigate the American River and all the rapids it had to offer. 

Photo: WBRC rafters on the America River
“Troublemaker” and “Fowler’s Rock” were among some of the exciting rapids that the Veterans battled through.  With adaptations made on each raft, each individual was able to enjoy the experience to the fullest.  Ingenious ETC staff took a simple lawn chair and duct tape to create secure seats on the raft itself; any wheelchair users definitely had the best seat.  There was a generous amount of staff support provided by ETC, as well, which all contributed to a trip that gave lasting impressions on all the Veterans who were able to attend.  Here were only a few of the comments made on the trip:

“It was the most fun I’ve had in the last 14 years.”

“The rafting trip itself was the most amazing thing I have ever done-sighted or visually impaired… It helped to boost my confidence, decrease my fears and to socialize with other attendees.”

This experience is one that I will remember the rest of my life. I don’t know how to put into words.”   

Photo: A rafter holds a paddle with the following inscription written on it:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving SAFELY in a PRETTY and WELL-PRESERVED body, but rather to skid in BROADSIDE in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘WOW! WHAT A RIDE!’” – Hunter S. Thompson.
This experience was made possible by a donation from a Veteran who wishes to not be named.  Nevertheless, his selfless act brought life changing joy to many of the Veterans who were able to experience white water rafting for the first time.  Each and everyone one of the Veterans expressed gratitude for the staff, ETC, and the grateful retired US Army Officer for providing an opportunity for this trip.  WBRC to anticipate. 

October 17, 2014

WBRC 10th Annual White Cane Awareness Walk a Huge Success

Photo: The 10th Annual White Cane Awareness March participants (click on the picture to enlarge)
October 15th, 2014 - The Western Blind Rehabilitation Center (WBRC) hosted their 10th Annual White Cane Awareness March on White Cane Awareness Day in Palo Alto, CA.  Participants included current and former WBRC students, WBRC staff members, Mr. Pete Chavarria - Grand Marshall of the March and WBRC Alum, Mrs. Nancy Shepherd - Palo Alto City Mayor, Volunteers from the Palo Alto Host Lions Club, Bookshare Representatives, Santa Clara Valley Blind Center Representatives, VISTA Center Representatives, as well as Guide Dogs for the Blind Puppy Raisers and Guide Dog Puppies in Training. 

Photo: WBRC staff member, Annalise Shaffer, mans the info booth

The group met in front of Palo Alto City hall with speeches from WBRC Administration, the Palo Alto City Mayor, and the Grand Marshal.  WBRC also set up and manned an information booth in front of City Hall with informational pamphlets on the White Cane Law, how to interact with pedestrians with vision loss, samples of long canes and support canes, blindfolds, and information about local services.  The approximately 1/2 mile march route included several blocks of University Ave, Palo Alto's busy downtown area which allowed participants to distribute information about the White Cane Law to many members of the community. 

Photo: Pete Chavarria (Right) is presented a certificate of appreciation from John Kingston, O&M Department Supervisor, for being the Grand Marshall of the 10th Annual White Cane Awareness Walk.
The group re-assembled upon returning to Palo Alto City Hall.  The White Cane Day proclamation was read by Mrs. Shepherd, Palo Alto City Mayor, and Certificates of Appreciation were awarded to the Mayor, Grand Marshall, and the Palo Alto Host Lions Club. 

This event, designed to celebrate the ability of persons with vision impairment to lead full and independent lives, included public education of the White Cane Law.  The White Cane Law states that pedestrians who use a white cane or dog guide have certain rights. Only persons who are legally blind are lawfully allowed to carry a white cane. Legal Blindness is defined as someone who has best corrected visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye; or a visual field limitation of 20 degrees or less. Some people with vision loss do not fall under the legal blindness definition but can still benefit from use of a long cane in a different color, such as yellow.

The California Vehicle Code 21963 states that a person carrying a predominantly white cane or using a dog guide shall have the right-of-way, that the driver of any vehicle approaching this person who fails to yield, or take all reasonable precautions to avoid injuring this pedestrian is guilty of a misdemeanor.  This is punishable by imprisonment for up to six months, a $500 to $1,000 fine, or both.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the WBRC

CLICK HERE to learn more about Bookshare

CLICK HERE to learn more about Guide Dogs for the Blind

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Guide Dogs for the Blind Puppy Raising Program

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center

CLICK HERE to learn more about the VISTA Center

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Palo Alto Host Lions Club