Visually Impaired students meet and greet Larchmont merchants

| November 2, 2017 | 2 Comments

FRANCES BLEND students met a friendly dog on their excursion on the Boulevard.

Van Ness Elementary School is one of several LAUSD elementary schools that exists within walking distance of Larchmont Blvd. Adjacent to Van Ness Elementary is another school, called the Frances Blend School for the Visually Impaired, which has called its campus home since 1926.

The two campuses officially merged in 2013 to form an intentionally integrated campus where all of the schools’ children could interact and collaborate in areas such as recess, lunch, physical education, art and orchestra. Of the entire school population, the Frances Blend School proudly hosts 42 visually impaired (VI) students from around the Los Angeles area.

As part of the Larchmont community, one of the school’s many goals is to explore the neighborhood on foot, teaching the blind students about the people and businesses that surround their learning environment.

A GROUP OF VI students, with parents, teachers and sighted 4th and 5th grade student “mobility guides,” participated in a mobility walk through Larchmont last month.

In October, a group of 11 VI students, assisted by parents, teachers and sighted 4th and 5th grade student “mobility guides,” participated in an orientation and mobility walk throughout the Larchmont retail district to meet and greet the merchants.

“This is a great way to take the kids out to learn mobility, financial interaction, and how to be independent,” said Anne Bell, one of the school’s teachers for the blind and visually impaired.

During the walk, students met with merchants from Larchmont Village Florist, YogaWorks, Erin McKenna’s Bakery, Landis Toy Shop, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Chevalier’s Bookstore and John Duerler of Hancock Homes Realty. At the end of their walking adventure, they were treated to a free lunch hosted by Burger Lounge.

“The merchants have been so wonderful and open to answering all of the questions from our students,” said Ms. Bell.

Not only did the VI students benefit from the walk, so did the sighted 4th and 5th grade mobility guides who escorted the students on their excursion. The sighted students were given a list of instructions for helping on the walk, such as warning the blind students of stair hazards and cracks in the sidewalks.

“Having the sighted and VI students come together teaches empathy, perspective and how to learn from other people who have different challenges from your own,” said Anna Lodder, a Van Ness parent and VI guide.

Anne Bell intends to continue these local walking adventures with her students, as the results, benefits and joy are immediately apparent.

“We’ve seen so many dogs! Like 18 of them!” gushed 5th grade VI student Hizela.

“We also asked questions about the recycling programs,” added 4th grade VI student Jocelyn. “And we got to smell the flowers. I love the smell of those flowers.”

‘What was your favorite thing about your Larchmont Boulevard excursion today?’

That’s the question inquiring photographer Sondi Toll Sepenuk asked Frances Blend Elementary School students along Larchmont Blvd.

“I liked going into the toy store. We talked about how the toys work and we talked to the merchants about their jobs.”
Sebastian, 5th grade

“The flower store was my favorite. I felt the roses and their textures and they all smelled so good!”
Hizela, 5th grade

“As a guide, I liked telling the kids what the surroundings looked like and pointing out the crunchy leaves.”
Tesla, 4th grade

“I really loved the flower shop. I wanted to take all the flowers home, but I couldn’t.”
Jocelyn, 4th grade

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Category: People

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