Blind woman learns to ride bicycle for first time

1 year 11 months 3 weeks ago Saturday, June 25 2016 Jun 25, 2016 Saturday, June 25, 2016 4:55:00 AM CDT June 25, 2016 in News
By: Alex Dostaler, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA — Gretchen Maune said losing her sight has made her "more fearless." She wanted to stretch herself by learning to ride a bike.

"It felt amazing," Maune said. "Everyone’s so friendly when you’re on a bike. You’re just moving along, you’re getting exercise, and you’re going somewhere, and the wind feels great, and it was just really cool, and learning a new skill."

Maune, 33, has Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), a rare hereditary condition which causes sudden, painless loss of vision. She lost her sight in September 2006.

She remembers when doctors told her.

"When they finally diagnosed me and told me there was no treatment and no cure, and all that stuff, it was completely permanent, it was really hard," she said. "I got really down and thought for a good year and a half-ish that I was thinking, 'I’m not going to be able to do stuff anymore.'"

Maune first attempted to learn how to ride a bike when she was 7 years old. 

"It didn’t go well, and I was just like, 'I learned other things quick, I am not learning this quick, I’m gonna move on, do something else'," Maune said. "I remember that my bike was pink and that I had tassels on the sides, streamer things that came out of the handles. I had a basket with little bows on it, and I thought it was really pretty and I wanted to be able to ride it."

Maune also said this time will be different.

"I’ve been through a lot now," Maune said. "Since then, I have experienced a lot in life. It’s just like, 'Yeah, I could do that.' I’ve done all of these different things, and why not? What’s the worst that can happen?"

Maune tried to ride on a tandem with a friend about five years ago, but she said that did not go well, either.

"We went about five feet and crashed, and he got a really bad cut on his head. I didn’t get on again," she said.

She decided to give it one more chance when her PedNet Coalition colleague, Rachel Ruhlen, offered to teach her on a tandem bicycle. 

"We just went up and down my street, which is a little dead end street, over and over again," Maune said. "Then she was like, 'Okay, do you want to go over to Stephens Park?' and then I was like, 'Oh god, maybe we just try going about ten more feet first.'

She said the two then ventured over to the parking lot by Wabash bus station and then a little further.

"It felt okay, and we got onto the Bike Boulevard to go over to Stephens, and it felt okay still. We ended up going 16 miles? And I didn’t get hurt, and I didn’t get scraped up, and I didn’t fall," Maune said.

One of her goals of learning to ride is to combat the stereotypes that she and other blind people face.

"I'm guessing people would be surprised a blind person could ride a bike," Maune said.

She said people are also surprised to learn she can use a computer, or walk down the sidewalk and go to a coffee shop by herself.

"We can do everything that someone who can see can do, we just do it a little bit differently," she said.

How people teach someone to ride a bike has changed since when Maune was younger.

Early in her training this time around, she had to balance on a bike with no pedals, and no training wheels.

Joe Silsby, who teaches Maune with Ruhlen, said this is exactly how he teaches other students.

Maune then rode on a bicycle uniquely designed for blind people, while Ruhlen rides next to her as a guide. The special bike has two wheels in the front and one wheel in the back, in order to help her keep balance. There are also brakes and a bell like any typical bicycle. By her third lesson, she was riding a typical bicycle.

Ruhlen said Maune is not held back by her disability.

"She's picking up bicycling a lot faster than other students,"  Ruhlen said.

Silsby said, "Gretchen is no different from other adults I have taught to ride. She is learning like any other student I have had."

Silsby said he has had to approach his teaching differently due to Gretchen's condition.

"I had to rethink what is different for me as an instructor, not for her as a learner," he said.

"I couldn't demonstrate by having her view me or view obstacles," Silsby said. "I had to think up obstacles that she could 'see' by manipulating, by holding."

To demonstrate a pothole, Silsby had Maune hold the top of a cup and said, "If your wheels hit that, it can take you down." To show the effects of uneven pavement, Silsby used a couple of boards.

Learning to ride a bicycle is an activity she can do friends and she hopes one day to "be able to drink beer and ride my bike at Bikes and Brews."

"I want to be able to participate in this world and have fun," she said.

Maune also likes the idea of getting around faster.

"It feels so great, and you can go so much farther faster than if you’re just walking, because I walk everywhere," she said. "Riding a bike, I don't know, it’s really awesome."

More News

Grid
List
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) - A judge has turned down a Ferguson lawmaker's attempt to run for a seat in the... More >>
48 minutes ago Wednesday, June 20 2018 Jun 20, 2018 Wednesday, June 20, 2018 9:36:00 AM CDT June 20, 2018 in News
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Zoo has welcomed a baby giraffe. Zoo officials announced Tuesday that Beau was... More >>
3 hours ago Wednesday, June 20 2018 Jun 20, 2018 Wednesday, June 20, 2018 7:18:00 AM CDT June 20, 2018 in News
FERGUSON (AP) — St. Louis County authorities say a 70-year-old Green Park woman died from heat-related issues when her home's... More >>
3 hours ago Wednesday, June 20 2018 Jun 20, 2018 Wednesday, June 20, 2018 6:29:00 AM CDT June 20, 2018 in News
KIRKWOOD (AP) — A 71-year-old St. Louis man and his adult son are both charged with assault for allegedly beating... More >>
4 hours ago Wednesday, June 20 2018 Jun 20, 2018 Wednesday, June 20, 2018 6:02:00 AM CDT June 20, 2018 in News
FAYETTE - City leaders are working toward a solution for its volunteer-based fire department. The Fayette Board of Aldermen... More >>
9 hours ago Wednesday, June 20 2018 Jun 20, 2018 Wednesday, June 20, 2018 12:44:00 AM CDT June 20, 2018 in News
NEW BLOOMFIELD - New Bloomfield citizens are looking for answers after yet another city council meeting was canceled Tuesday. ... More >>
13 hours ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 8:40:00 PM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY – Ryan Lee Gehris said he’s always loved to ride his bike. Lately, that hobby has turned... More >>
15 hours ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 6:39:00 PM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
MEXICO - The Mexico Public Safety Department arrested two people and accused them of child abuse in Mexico, Missouri, following... More >>
16 hours ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 5:31:00 PM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
MOBERLY - The Moberly Police Department has a new directory for people with autism, but some people think it shouldn't... More >>
18 hours ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 3:49:00 PM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
CALLAWAY COUNTY – Crews recently broke ground on a new hog farm in Callaway County, and locals have strong opinions... More >>
19 hours ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 3:06:00 PM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
WASHINGTON, D.C. - More than 600 members of the United Methodist Church have issued a formal church complaint against Attorney... More >>
19 hours ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 3:01:00 PM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The Radio Television Digital News Association has named KOMU.com best website in a small market for the second... More >>
19 hours ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 2:48:00 PM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - A punctured gas line caused large-scale evacuations in the heart of downtown Columbia Tuesday afternoon. Columbia Police... More >>
19 hours ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 2:38:00 PM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A Cole County judge says there are a few key legal questions to be answered before he... More >>
20 hours ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 1:40:00 PM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY- Juneteenth brings communities together to honor the official ending of slavery in the U.S. One group in Jefferson... More >>
23 hours ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 11:17:00 AM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Democratic Party and a World War II veteran are suing to block the appointment of... More >>
23 hours ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 11:10:00 AM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The Trump administration policy to force separation of migrant children and parents at the U.S.-Mexico... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 7:58:00 AM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Monday began Summer Safety Week and local programs are helping those in danger of not being able to... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 5:54:00 AM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 85°
11am 85°
12pm 87°
1pm 88°
2pm 89°