Let the Cane Training Commence! (Learning to use a white cane after sight loss)

The new year is off to a positive start in regards to breaking new blind person barriers. With my maternity leave coming to an end and me starting back to work on February 13th, I’m getting myself into action so that I’m capable of getting around the office independently. Be positive. Be positive. Be POSITIVE! The panic about this is already setting in, fast.

My support worker suggested signing me up for cane training. This is basically where you learn how to get around using those white sticks that are so commonly associated with people of my disposition. When this was first mentioned, I outright refused! My initial thoughts were that I didn’t want people to know I was blind. It made me feel vulnerable. Having that white stick is going to make me stand out like a beacon for thieves and attackers. I’ll be marked out instantly as an easy target. People will stare at me and think aww she’s blind. People will feel sorry for my parents because I need looking after at 34 years of age. People will pity my partner because he’s young and full of life but stuck with me as a burden. My daughter will be bullied at school when I go to pick her up or she’ll be known as “the one with the blind mum”. No! I’m not dealing with that!

I went for a walk with my Mum to the park up the road to clear my head after being stuck in the captivity of my living room for a few weeks. She pushes Darcy in her pushchair whilst I hold onto it so I know where I’m going. Walking now my sight has gone is like being completely intoxicated. You stumble around, trip over things, hit things, step too high or lose your balance. This was a strange and unexpected factor to deal with. It happens because as you walk, you tense or relax your body in line with whether you are going up and down different ground gradients or across various surface textures. How you walk going up and down hills or across sand, grass and concrete differ immensely and you do this with your body in advance because you can see these elements before you. A cane gives you that heads up so my perspective about using one waivered slightly.

My support worker put me in touch with someone else who is severely sight impaired and lives locally. He’s a bit of a tech whizz who has helped me set up audio accessibility options for my tablet and phone. He walked to my house – alone – using an app that acts like a sat nav and of course, a cane. I discovered that he also shared the same thoughts about cane training as me until he was hit by cars on three separate occasions which put him in hospital. If you have a reflective white cane, drivers are more likely to watch out for you crossing the road instead of assuming you can see them and won’t cross if they choose not to stop for you. Being killed definitely outweighs some narrow minded idiot making a stupid remark towards me!

The icing on the cake of my complete perspective turnaround came from a visit to Trentham Gardens. My parents love this place so I often tag along for a coffee. At Christmas this place is rammed with people shopping, eating or taking their children to see singing reindeers and the likes. When I’m there, linking my Mum for support in an attempt to look normal, there are people walking towards me and along side me. They don’t know I can’t see them until they are right in front of me. They expect me to move. I can’t see, so I don’t. They bash into me. I get stood upon. People tut or tell me to watch where I’m going. I wish I could mate! I get back into the car feeling like Richard Ashcroft from The Verve in that Bittersweet Symphony video. If I had a cane, people may just realise and move out of my way? If not, well they get whacked by my cane for being so ignorant!

My mind was made up. I have done three sessions of cane training so far and I’m getting there. I’ve tackled the basics of holding it, I can combat unfamiliar stairs, I have crossed roads and clambered kerbs, I’ve developed the techniques used for getting through spaces and I can now fold and unfold that cane like a blind ninja warrior!

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