Have you ever thought about climbing down a steep, rocky hill right next to Niagara Falls? What about riding an open-air chairlift to the top of an 1,800 ft lookout of the Smoky Mountains? Amaurie Davison has done it all, and he says there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Amaurie arrived at The Maryland School for the Blind (MSB) in 2015 after experiencing a multitude of challenges in school. His parents knew they had a tough decision ahead of them. Thinking about their son going to school three hours away was a major hurdle for their family. They made the decision to start Amaurie in MSB summer programming and quickly began to feel comfortable. After a few summers spent at MSB, Amaurie’s family decided it was time for him to attend MSB as a student. He immediately took to the new environment and staff at MSB, and began working with an Orientation and Mobility (O&M) instructor to catch up on important lessons in cane travel and mobility skills that were not available in his previous school. Over the next 8 years, Amaurie and his instructors worked together to increase his skills allowing him to travel independently with ease.
As part of a well-rounded educational plan, students are taught important life skills such as self-care and goal setting. This year, Amaurie set exercise goals for himself to work on strength and stamina. His favorite form of exercise is taking challenging hikes with his family. His apple watch reminds him of daily goals and Amaurie says he likes to keep his “move streaks” going as many days as he can. Last summer, Amaurie’s mom, aunts, and cousins packed their bags to head out on an epic summer vacation traveling through New York. They’re experts after spending last year’s trip driving and hiking through Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia—all in just 9 days.
This year, the family hiked on trails throughout New York state, visiting many parks and making lasting memories. Amaurie explained with a smile on his face that he can still hear Niagara Falls in the distance. His mom told us all about the different ways she would help Amaurie experience the impressive qualities of the nature they were traveling through. She safely put his cane in a nearby river for him to feel the pull of the water, talked with him about how different your body feels at a higher altitude, and even explained the difference between fresh and saltwater when he noticed how differently they felt on his skin.
There’s no doubt that Amaurie’s experience looks different than that of his sighted peers, but by using his cane travel skills, having his mom as a sighted guide, and occasionally taking a lended hand to navigate a particularly tough spot, Amaurie grows more confident and excited to explore with each trip. His mom says, “The best part is obviously the time spent together and for him to experience things hands-on. I don’t think you can fully describe some of these things to a blind person without them actually experiencing them themselves. They have to go out into the world, and for me, it’s letting him experience it, hear it, smell it. I think that’s the best part is watching how much joy he gets out of it.”
By utilizing the crucial travel lessons taught by his O&M instructor, Amaurie climbs back up the rocky paths with ease after studying the terrain on the way down. His mom hollers for him to slow down, but he pushes forward with skill and determination.
Photos of Amaurie and his mom, Tracy at a few national parks across the United States.