Celebrating White Cane Safety Day, October 15th
Contributed by Michael Nino
For 17years, I avoided using the device that would help me the most when it comes to my independence – the long white cane. I didn’t want the cane to identify me as a person with a visual impairment. Eventually, I learned that using a cane has great benefits and advantages. People I encounter are more understanding when I am unable to see that they are extending their arm for a handshake, or when I need some extra assistance. Using the cane took away the fear and stress of struggling to use what remains of my vision for traveling and other tasks.
Most of my teens and twenties were spent trying to compensate for my deteriorating vision, and to avoid be identified as a person with vision loss. With each passing year of more vision loss, I traveled less and less to avoid situations in which it was harder for me to see. Places with dim lighting, like a movie theater, or any venue with large crowds were no longer enjoyable for me.
I came to the realization that using a white cane did not equate to losing my independence. It actually gave it back to me! Now that I’ve lost my functional vision, and can be considered totally blind, my cane is my number one tool. With my cane in hand, I can go grocery shopping on my own, retrieved my mail at the community mailbox, and take my dog on a four mile walk. I have no functional vision, but I have my long white cane and the confidence I need to do all these things!
The confidence I have now did not come overnight. I spent countless hours training and practicing my cane travel skills. The time and effort I put into becoming proficient with my cane skills have made my everyday life easier and more enjoyable. Tools for people with vision loss (talking phones, bump dots, magnification software) are all amazing, but by far the most powerful tool I own is my white cane. If you are apprehensive about cane travel, I highly encourage you to give it a shot, and be patient with yourself! I promise you will not regret it!