Recently there has been a lot of people talking about the use of a white cane and it made me think about how I feel when using mine.
All of us in the Visually Impaired (VI) world know that just because someone is using a white cane or has a guide dog, it doesn’t mean they are totally blind. In fact it is quite the opposite. Research suggests that it is in fact only around 3% of the near two million people that live with some form of sight loss in the UK are actually totally blind. But society’s perceptions of people that have such instruments of mobility are totally wrong. It is a common understanding through most of the general public that anyone with said accessibility devices are totally blind. This is not true. Most of us have some form of what is known as ‘useful vision’. This vision that remains is what we use to do the things that others see as impossible for us to do as they believe we are totally blind.
I am a cane user, I have been now for just over 7 years. I have been VI now for over 11years and I have to say it really did change my life. You can check out my blog Moses of the High Street if you want to read my humorous take on life with a white cane. This blog however is focussing on the mental aspect of using a cane.
I saw a video recently where someone was saying they felt fraudulent using a cane as they weren’t totally blind. With society’s perception of sight loss assuming this, it made them feel awkward when thanking someone if they stopped to let them past. So, instead of being polite and well-mannered, they ended up ignoring the people that let them past and walked on by. In the past I have done the same. Ignoring the world around me and walking around like a grumpy blind zombie. Now this of course is not true, I am just a grumpy old man, but what people don’t realise about the cane is that it is as much for my own safety as it is for others to be aware that I have sight loss.
It is not the fault of us as cane users that most of the general population don’t know about the varying degrees of sight loss. So therefore why should I feel bad that I am being independent and moving around with confidence because of my cane. If I didn’t have it, what would I do? Well I can tell you what I used to do. NOTHING! I literally would get picked up in a taxi, go do whatever I needed to do, get dropped off in a taxi back at home and then sit there trying to figure out what button turns the television on and which one didn’t mess up the frequency. It is far more awkward to walk around sight impaired without a cane and bumping into things, be that A boards, people or even lamp posts. The cane allows me to navigate these inanimate objects with ease and people are usually very good and move aside so to avoid tagging of their ankles.
My cane gave me a new lease of life, it gave me the ability to do and try things I never thought I would. I don’t feel vulnerable anymore using it. But I do see where people are coming from when they say you almost feel like you have to act more blind than you are. I have done it before. But what is the point? By doing that I am just feeding into the negative stereotypes that besiege us all.
I say let’s educate the population. If someone asks, tell them. If you notice someone looking at you funny, tell them. If a parent walks past with a kid that asks, ‘mummy what’s that man got that white stick for? Tell them. Parents are seemingly terrible at educating children on the importance of such matters, it’s as if they don’t want to feel embarrassed. I’m not embarrassed, why should they be. I would much rather the youth of today grow up to be disability aware and therefore have the knowledge that disability is not a thing you have to avoid and be ignorant about. We embrace it, so should everyone else.
Only we as cane users and guide dog owners can make that difference. One day we will take over and the many people who are stuck at home like I was will pick up their very own white stick and we can have our very own ‘Cane Pride Day’.
Mine changed my life, what did yours do for you?
That’s it for now
Until next time