Excerpted from O&M Living History – Where Did our O&M Techniques Come From?

By Dona Sauerburger, COMS

As the new O&M instructors began to teach the blinded veterans, their techniques and strategies began to change. Probably the most significant change that took place was that the lessons and techniques became increasingly sophisticated, with greater and greater expectations of the blind men. [Stanley] Suterko remembers a lesson with one of his first learners, who was asked to complete a complex route indoors to find a certain room. When the man reached his destination, he exclaimed, “Hot damn! I did it!” Suterko felt like saying the same thing, because he was equally surprised that the man could do it.

[Russ] Williams wasn’t surprised by what the veterans could achieve because he had done it himself, but the instructors and [Warren] Bledsoe and [Richard] Hoover continued to be pleased and surprised with what the blinded veterans were accomplishing. One day Hoover, who visited Hines occasionally, watched a lesson in which the veteran crossed several streets and went to a train platform. In retrospect, the lesson would not be seen as particularly noteworthy, but Hoover was exceedingly impressed. Williams also reports that at one visit, Hoover asked him if there were any new developments. Williams couldn’t think of any, but when Hoover went to observe a lesson, he was astounded at the new procedure he witnessed: the “drop-off” lesson. This is a lesson in which the blind learner is dropped off without being informed of his location, orients himself, and meets the instructor at a destination. Hoover’s first reaction was that this lesson was cruel to the blinded veterans, but he later said that he approved of the practice.

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