Teaching Advanced Travel Skills in a Rural Environment

Most people want to independently plan and execute routes efficiently within a limited time frame. Imagine living on an island outside the metro region and relying on friends and family. This is because Uber, bus, and train services are only effective in metropolitan areas. People who are blind or low vision frequently encounter this situation here in Puerto Rico. Only the ones living in San Juan can benefit from taking “El Tren Urbano,” the only public railroad system in Puerto Rico, to travel to their jobs, schools, concerts, etc.  

We must address this limitation for all the community members who are blind or have low vision in Puerto Rico. They have the right to functional independence in everyday life. 

Metropolitan Living 

Living in the Metro region of Puerto Rico grants more accessibility to everyone, including people who are blind or low vision. A person with low vision or blindness can call an Uber or use the bus or “El Tren Urbano” for transportation. Living in a large city gives people access and control to be independent and move around their environment without depending on family or friends’ schedules to drive them.  

They must still work with the train schedule and adapt their time management accordingly. This accessibility allows people in the metropolitan area to easily commute independently to work, school, shopping, hospitals, and coliseum. Nonetheless, suppose they live in the other part of the island, like the south, west, or east. To move around, they must rely on their friends, family, or the Sultana Line (collective transport from the metropolitan San Juan to Mayagüez)   

Tren Urbano and Uber 

The Tren Urbano is a transit system available for San Juan, Bayamon, and Guaynabo people. The train includes 16 stations at hospitals, college campuses, coliseums, sports centers, etc. This transit system is a way for people with low vision and blindness to get to their jobs and colleges and to participate in different activities independently. This allows the independence without depending on family members or friends. However, only people living in the metropolitan area can benefit from it. Likewise, Uber only operates in the metro region of Puerto Rico. Uber is available in San Juan, Bayamon, Guaynabo, Trujillo Alto, and Carolina. An Uber can take you further to the metro region. However, it won’t be easy to find one to get back. 

Living in a Rural Environment 

The opportunity for students or clients who are blind or have low vision to have instruction in an area with a train station or be able to call an Uber is limited. In Puerto Rico, the Tren Urbano only goes from Guaynabo, Bayamon, and San Juan and vice versa. To ensure a student or client can have the train experience, they must travel to the metro region. They can learn about train operations, boarding procedures, schedules, and pricing information in this area. Consequently, this situation often leads to migration to the metropolitan area for work or study purposes. 

Linea Sultana 

The Sultana Line is public transportation from Mayaguez (the west part of the island) to San Juan to Ave Universidad and back. Its schedule is limited only six travel times, seven days a week. Public transportation is available to reach San Juan. Although the travel time can vary between two to three hours due to traffic conditions.  

Providing Instruction in a Rural Environment 

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) instructors can creatively teach advanced public transportation travel skills to students and clients living in rural Puerto Rico or other rural environments. 

Road Trips 

Students residing in different parts of the island can go on a road trip to the metropolitan region for orientation and mobility (O&M) instruction at the train station. This experience will provide them with valuable knowledge about the workings of other public transportation. 

Teachers Supporting Teachers 

A designated day can be arranged for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TVIs) from across the island to meet with Orientation and Mobility Specialists in the metro area. During this gathering, the O&M specialist can provide a comprehensive demonstration on how to familiarize themselves with the train station, train stops, schedules, prices, and other relevant information for instruction for a class on Orientation and Mobility.  

O&M Summer Camps 

A school in the metropolitan area can host students all over the island who require O&M training. This school will serve as a place for them to practice their skills and offer experience in exploring and using the train effectively.  

Move to the Metro Region 

People with low vision or blindness can move to San Juan to have access to the Tren Urbano or Uber and to have the opportunity to work or study in an area where they can get to their destination independently and in a shorter time. Inform your students and clients of the option. 

It is important to demonstrate to students that they can be and feel independent. 

Everyone should have accessibility and be independent no matter the disabilities they might have. TVIs and O&M specialists should let their students know there is public transportation to get them to their work, schools, and activities in less time and at their schedule in metro regions.