^ Click Arrow Above To Listen
When I was diagnosed with RP, I contacted the State of Montana’s Blind and Low Vision Services to see what kind of programs were available. My case worker encouraged me to work with their mobility specialist, Mark O’Brien.
At first, I really didn’t see the need to train with a white cane. I still could see fairly well, and it seemed silly to me to use a white cane. People who used white canes were, well, blind, right? But Mark assured me that it would be a lot easier to learn how to use the cane while I could still see some, rather than wait. I was still feeling self-conscious and apprehensive, but I finally, reluctantly, agreed.
On my first outing with Mark, we went to a very busy intersection. He taught me how to read traffic patterns, so I would not have to rely on the traffic lights, although he did give me a monocular, so I could see the traffic signal, if I wanted. We crossed the busy streets many times, round and round, until I felt confident that I knew how to read the traffic.
After that, I had many more sessions with Mark. He taught me how to approach stairs, and navigate in small areas. At the time, I made a vow to myself that, even though I could still see fairly well, I would use the white cane for a year, whenever I went out. (Except running….That came years later.) After a year of consistent use, I would be well-trained and comfortable using the cane. Then I could put it away, and hopefully never have to use it again!
I had a friend who liked to take me shopping with him. He would tell me that I should use my white cane so I could get some practice in, but he had an ulterior motive. He really wanted me to use the cane so that I could clear the aisle for him as he shopped. It worked, too. People would see me coming, and immediately move out of the way. At the time, though, I could still see people’s faces and their reactions, so it was uncomfortable for me to watch everyone staring at me. I’m sure they presumed I couldn’t see them.
The funny thing is, I always thought that, too: that people using white canes could not see at all, and I was amazed at how well they could navigate with a stick! Of course, now I know better. A lot of blind people have some degree of vision.
It’s now 11 years later, and I’m still in touch with Mark and Diane and the other folks at Blind and Low Vision Services. Sometimes I need something that they can help me with. As my vision has been deteriorating, I am very grateful for the training I received. I use the techniques Mark taught me all the time, especially with respect to traffic, as I can no longer see the traffic lights at all, not even with a monocular.
Even though I don’t use my white cane in my everyday activities, I have started, just in the past few months, to use it while walking home from work in the mornings, and during my runs.
But that is another blog…
How ‘bout it?
P.S. We’d love to hear your insights and comments and stories….leave a comment below! Thanks!