Program Feature - Lifeliner Newsletter October 2015

Posted by Marty Wickham on

Life Preservers First Aid Inc. was recently featured by the Life Saving Sociey's monthly newsletter, the Lifeliner. This feature tells the story of Tommy Leung's experience with Life Preservers First Aid. Tommy is a student that came to us a few months ago asking if we would be able to accommodate his disability in our training courses. Tommy is completely blind, and we weren't going to let this prevent him from becoming certified.

See below for further information on Tommy's experience with Life Preservers First Aid!

"I quickly realized that he was just like all other students" 

Last month Tommy Leung was certified in Standard First Aid by First Aid Instructor Marty Wickham, the owner of Lifesaving Society Affiliate Life Preservers First Aid Inc Like the thousands of individuals who completed first aid training through the Branch last year, Tommy now has the skills to save a life. What makes Tommy unique is that he is completely blind.

We recently spoke to Tommy and Marty about their experience.

Have you taken a First Aid course before?

Tommy: This was my first time. I had looked into taking a course before however other legally blind people told me it would be difficult to find someone willing to meet my needs. I knew I would need to let the course provider know up front that I was blind so I was expecting there would be challenges. Initially, I called a couple of places regarding courses who never returned my messages or flat out said that they would not be able to teach me. I was glad when Life Preservers was open to trying this out even though it was their first time training someone who could not see.  

What was your experience in the course?

Tommy: At first Life Preservers wasn't sure if they were able to certify me but they told me to come to the course, try it out, get trained and see if I can meet the standard for certification. 

Going into the course I didn't know what to expect but I knew Marty would be open to helping and training me. Life Preservers had ensured that I would get more individual attention and even though I wasn't able to use the manual, I was provided with handouts that I could scan using my own software.

During the course there were a lot of hands-on elements and Marty made sure that all of the equipment was handed to me so that I could feel each item and know what was going on. During one activity we were broken into groups to put our ideas on poster paper. Marty read out all of the projects and was very descriptive of the drawings which made me laugh.

The other students were also very open and helpful. I had my guide dog, MacBeth, with me and the other students really loved dogs and came to say hi to him and I. During breaks and lunch some students who knew the area helped me take MacBeth outside.

How did you feel at the end of the course?

Tommy: I was excited to meet the standard and receive my certification. I feel that this course was a good confidence builder for me. I know what I can do given different situations. I know I could be calm and help out in any way I can.

What advice would you give to instructors when teaching students with visual impairments or special needs?

Tommy: I would tell instructors to keep an open mind. Going in I didn't know how it would work out. It worked because Marty was willing to work together with me to make it happen and was willing to answer any questions I had along the way. Getting resources ahead of time, especially electronically, can be very helpful as they can be adapted in many ways.

Would you recommend Lifesaving Society First Aid courses?

Tommy: I volunteer with an organization that serves youth with visual impairments. It would be great to arrange a first aid training session for them that may not include certification but would provide them with a great educational experience. It would be wonderful for everybody.

I would recommend this course to other people who take first aid. In 3 years when my certification expires I know I will come back and train with Marty at Life Preservers First Aid.

Marty Wickham (l), pictured with Tommy:  Head First Aid Instructor of Life Preservers First Aid Inc.

What was your experience teaching Tommy?           

Marty: I was a little apprehensive at first having Tommy in the class as I hadn't had a visually impaired student in my class previously. I wasn't sure about safety concerns as we had 12 students as well as how I would balance my teaching and attention to all students. Tommy was brilliant!! I quickly realized that he was just like all other students and just needed as much tactile learning as possible. I would show him once by letting him feel the manikins and he would repeat it right afterwards. Everyone loved having Tommy and MacBeth in the class.
What resources did you find most effective when teaching a student with a visual impairment?                   

Marty: I tried to put everything in Tommy's hands as we talked about it such as a pocket mask, Epi-pens, manikins, etc. I tried to be as graphic as possible in my descriptions and to speak slowly. I also checked in with him often. 
How did having Tommy and MacBeth in your class affect your other students?   

Marty: Tommy's classmates warmed up to him quickly. He was just like any other student. They helped me guide Tommy and MacBeth to the washroom and practice area. It was a very open and relaxed environment. 
In what ways did this challenge you as an instructor? 

Marty: Physically it wasn't a challenge as Tommy learned very tactically and I was always hands-on with him. Trying to make sure that I spoke slowly and descriptively while lecturing was very important. I learned that Tommy was just like all other students despite his impairment. I would be open to having other students with impairments in my class.

What advice would you give to other instructors looking to accommodate students with special needs? 

Marty: Treat impaired students as you would any other while keeping in mind their limitations. Give them a chance to learn as you would anyone else. Your students will rally and help as much as they can.

The full newsletter can be found here: Lifeliner Newsletter October 2015

If you have any further questions about Life Preservers First Aid, please give us a call at:         604-354-6199.


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