Dan Chomycia's Field Report

Field Report

November, 2013

From: Dan Chomycia

[This report was submitted in a rough notes format. We have added some details in brackets to provide context and clarity.]

Day 1
The initial conversation was important to establish rapport and trust. As well as [reviewing] Brian's Accolades on the web. This trust I feel was crucial to my development since I was essentially putting my safety in his hands. For a sighted individual to trust a non sighted person to direct them across a street was the most difficult initial hurdle for me. Of course I went with it but it was exciting and somewhat terrifying. Brian handled this well by offering extra assistance to lead me across the street by using his shoulder. This was crucial because I knew that he was in control at that point. I instead felt I could follow his sound across the street and did so with the cane and sound. I also believe that the initial work I did with the cane and blindfold gave me that confidence to follow his lead. I'm not certain that a sighted person would normally and easily be able to do this so that trust is very key.

Brian got me out and moving around fairly quickly - that is a good thing. We did do some preliminary exercises in the house using the corner and different room sound signatures. I feel that the training I did before helped a lot with my learning curve.

So after exploring the house, we went immediately outside. My first impression was the overwhelming amount of sound outside verses inside. Brian took me around the block and explained what it sounds like when you start feeling enclosed outside - very similar to the kitchen inside so the little inside work helped. Then explained masking noises. I learned to be patient before moving on. We explored the block before moving on. He got me to understand when the space around me was opening up.

Then we went across a small street which was OK. But when we got to the busier street that’s when the most fear set in. Brian managed like I said earlier. I think the difference between the small street and the busy street was the overwhelming amount of sound in comparison, so much so that I couldn't initially distinguish what was happening. Of course we got across safely and made it to the lunch spot safely. Lunch was good but had trouble homing in on our conversation in a busy restaurant. I wanted to use the restroom. Brian adeptly explained what would happen and that someone would probably lead to the restroom. I tried to find it on my own and failed. Someone led me in and led me out. Got back to Brian at the table. He asked me to identify the shape of the room. I did OK at that.

Coming back from the restaurant, we began exploring the neighborhood. The experience reminded me of my childhood when we would explore as children. - Not knowing what you'll find - not really knowing where I was going. We made several stops on the way to identify and explore things [with FlashSonar, followed by touch]. I could hear alcoves initially the best. So we explored parking garages and car ports. He taught me how to keep alignment on the sidewalk. He explained sound shadows and we used special sidewalk features to find his house again. He modified the way I use the cane detecting edges of the path. On the way and got me to speed up with the cane some.

When we got home he taught how he gets the key in the door. Earlier when we left he taught me how to  see the steps with the cane better in a couple of ways. This helped a lot. By the time we got back to the house my ears were completely open so much so that I had difficulty distinguishing sounds and re-exploring the house. He instructed me to start using a quieter click. This seemed to help me focus enough to find my way around the house. I met his wife and then we went outside to do some panel work. It was the end of the day and couldn't distinguish the sounds very well with the panel. This left me disappointed but Brian rebuilt my confidence by having me find the corner of the car port which could do. I took my blind fold off after having it on the entire day.

I really feel that the extended time with the blindfold and putting my trust in Brian made a huge difference in my learning curve. Taking the blindfold off after a complete day of training is interesting. I was dizzy kind a like a sailor stepping off a boat. But it wasn't until I took the blindfold off that the fatigue set in. It took sometime between a half hour to an hour for me to feel good enough to drive home. This was day 1. I spent sometime once I got home and explored the house I was staying in. The fatigue went away after a couple hours and when I went to dinner after an hour of conversation my sound filter came back. Which was good because before that I had difficulty distinguishing the conversation in comparison with the other sounds in the room.

Day 2

I got up early, explored the house, then drove to Brian's. I put my blindfold on and grabbed my cane as soon as I left the car, found my way into Brian's place. We started doing some panel work outside with a large salad bowl and then with a salad spinner. Did a little better with this exercise this time.
Then we found a spot we were at the day before - entrance to a large parking garage next to the fire-station. We explored the area and decided to do some precision drills, finding the distance with the click from the wall. We did cane distance and hand distance. I was doing pretty good until something changed . It seems I was stopping just one step short of my target distance. I refer to it as my warning step or signal. Once I understood this my accuracy returned. After that we explored the opposite side of the area. At this time I started to perceive multiple layers of the objects in front of me at a distance. I saw the curb, the slight grass hill [beyond the curb] and the fence [behind the hill]. There was something on top of the fence and I could find where the top of the fence was [with FlashSonar]. When we were doing the precision drills in order to get to the curb. I stopped way short; it seems I could hear the storm drain that was grooved into the pavement perpendicular to my path and thought it was the curb! Yet another layer in front of me. After figuring this out I had no problem finding the curb.

Later we tested these drills when Brian tried to disorient me by leading me in circles then have me square up to the wall [from a distance] and find my distances to the wall. This was a success! By the way me and that wall are friends now. From time to time cars would come through and I would simply get out of the way by going to the wall or the curb. Very practical skill. Then Brian had me zigzag between the wall and the curb. And find my way back to the sidewalk. On the way back to the house I could find cars on the street and sometimes perceive the spaces between cars. We did some drills that help me cross the street and some drills that keep me from wandering in the street which are very practical. He pushed me to walk faster and faster with the cane and by the end of the day I was practically speed walking! He taught me how to find something across the street to click at to keep me going straight across, as well as the perpendicular and parallel sounds from the traffic.

[With FlashSonar] I found a [solid] sign in the middle of a [wrought iron] metal gate, and could find [varying] distances above my head in carports and parking garages. It was a great day.

At the end of the day I took my blindfold off and was dizzier than the day before - less fatigue though. I think the dizziness is my body adapting back and forth between non-visual and visual stimulus. The dizziness went away in about 45 minutes.

I said goodbye to Brian and drove back to Nevada. On the way home I found that I could use passive echolocation to improve my driving. I did this by rolling the windows down a little in my car and tuning them so that I was getting the same amount of sound out of each side. Then I listened for the cars. I could tell when a car was directly on either side of the car or a lane or 2 away. This came in handy on the busy LA highways. The echolocation was giving me more information about my environment - making driving that much easier! That is an amazing amount of crossover! Very useful for merging onto a busy highway. Or getting 360 degree information from your environment , understanding it, and being able confidently to rely on and utilize that information.

Great stuff can't wait to do more!