Now that I have started back to work for the school district, I am using my white cane very regularly. With this comes the benefits and drawbacks. I started using my cane about 2 years ago. When it was offered to me by my teacher of the visually impaired through Washington State Services for the Blind, I wasn’t so sure about it. Me? A white cane user? No one has ever offered this to me in the past. I was willing however to give it a shot, if nothing else as an identifier to others that I don’t see as well. I started my O and M lessons and quickly realized the benefits of traveling with my cane. First of all, it allows me to look up where I am going instead of staring at the ground as I walk. This allows me to use my remaining vision as well as more efficiently and effectively interact with my environment. It gives me a sense of confidence. I no long mistep on curbs and stairs. Changes in lighting are not as much of an issue and it tells others I don’t see well which is helpful for street crossings and interacting with and getting a bus driver’s attention.
Working for the schools I interact with many people and I love hearing students questions and ideas of what my cane is all about. My favorite was when I was walking down the hall of an elementary school and a student exclaims “she has a bomb detector”. Not quite sure how to respond to that. I was in the store the other night and a man standing next to me in line asked me if it was a special kind of hiking pole. I had to explain what it is for. It was a good reminder to me that even at this day in age, not everyone knows the purpose of a white cane. That makes me a little sad.
I use my cane almost 100% of the time when I am out and about. It has really become a part of me and I don’t feel comfortable without it now. It is amazing how much I think it has helped me. People around me have commented that I walk more confidently and faster.
With all these amazing benefits I have experienced, there are some major drawbacks to using the cane. First of all, it is supposed to detect changes in the environment around me, but it frequently gets stuck in the smallest sidewalk crack or tree root. This causes me to impale myself in the gut or hip, bruising myself. Although my travel is better with my cane, it is frustrating and stressful and not relaxing. Another aspect that annoys me is that when I am sitting on the sideways seats on the bus, minding my own business, people don’t pay attention and grab my cane as if it was a hand hold on the bus.this is an invasion of my personal space! Please be respectful. This happens more than it should.
Although there are so many benefits to the white cane, I’m not sure if it is the ideal mobility option for me…