From Sidewalk to Sight Walk
Celebrating a Milestone
35-Day Author Blog Challenges – Day 34, Ultra / Ultimate Blog Challenge
A mixed group of sighted and vision-impaired citizens from Erie County gathered downtown to participate in the White Cane Awareness Walk Wednesday afternoon. Each year on October 15, White Cane Safety Day is observed across the United States to celebrate the accomplishments and continued independence of vision-impaired and blind individuals everywhere. It was coordinated by the Sight Center of NW PA and the Bureau of Blindness in Erie, PA
Cheryl, my first local vision-impaired friend, asked me if I wanted to join in on the walk. “Fred–that’s my husband–said we can pick you up. He’s got to run some errands while we walk but after it’s over, he’ll take us home.”
It was settled. I was going. I loved to walk but I’d never participated in a walk like this.
White Cane Day Walk
It was late morning when we arrived in Erie to join the walk. The biting wind cut through my coat and stung my face. I rubbed my hands together to warm up.
“This way,” Fred said gesturing to my right where the others were walking.
One man immediately took Cheryl (wearing red) under his wing and we began to move. Some people used canes while others used guide dogs. I tried to find some street names but we were moving too fast. So I had to focus to keep up with the group.
We’ll meet the others at the Bureau of Blindness and I’ll ask about our route.
I recognized Susan, a counselor at the Sight Center, and her yellow Lab. Shelley, a mobility specialist from the Bureau of Blindness, was walking with her black Lab. A group from Sharon, PA was expected to join in on the walk.
I fell into step with Kiriam, another mobility specialist, who hustled me through the intersection with two words,”Quick! Quick!”
We continued to walk briskly. I heard one member of the group say, “A lot more people planned to come but the weather scared ’em off.” It was supposed to rain.
The wind propelled me forward on the sidewalk like invisible hands pushing me to my destination. I listened to the chatter around me. Everyone seemed cheerful even on this overcast, chilly day.
Destination, Not Start-Up
After just ten or fifteen minutes, we turned into a building. I blinked several times but it was too dark to see.
I wondered when the walk would officially start.
“Would you like to sit next to Cheryl?” someone asked me.
Apparently we had arrived at our destination, Plymouth Tavern, and not the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services. The walk was finished.
I enjoyed a good laugh. Apparently, we’d joined the group in mid-walk and they’d cut it short because of the cold, and the threatening rain.
This is just like our lives. Expect the unexpected!
A Warm Welcome
Linda, the CEO of the Sight Center, officially greeted us all and thanked us for participating in the White Cane Day walk. By the time we had our seats, my eyes had adjusted and it was a little easier to see. But Penny, an employee of the Sight Center, read the menu out loud so everyone could choose what to order. Once that was out of the way, we took this photograph (below).
Stories and Laughter
While we waited for our food to arrive, Cheryl pulled a small lamp out of her handbag, which she said helped her to see better.
“That’s helpful,” I observed. I would have never thought of it.
Stories flowed around me and each one had the kind of punch line I could relate to.
“… and he said to my friend that her glass was to her left. He told me mine was to my right of me. I thought it was odd that each time I drank there was less water. It turned out we were drinking from the same glass of water!”
A gentleman from the end of the table called out, “Where can I get a hand-held scanner?”
Shelley, the mobility specialist, gave him an immediate answer. She whipped out her iPAD and deftly typed in his name and address to send him an email.
The cheeriness of the group warmed me as the stories and laughter continued.
Steaming zucchini vegetable soup arrived. I happily slurped it up. Next came my Ruben Sandwich and chips. I had to be careful with my food and drink since it was so dark in the restaurant–but I did well.
My undoing was my greed at the end of the meal. I ordered chocolate chip cheesecake. To eat it, had to find my forked, which was still wrapped are.I was in the process of looking for it when I bumped the to-go box into my water glass. Yes, it was nearly full!
It headed for the woman directly across from me!
Grabbing a handful of napkins, I blotted up the water. I couldn’t believe of all the people there, it was me who knocked over the water glass!
The woman was low-key and joked with me about it. I smiled to myself. Of course, we all knew what spilling a beverage was like!
I learned that day how to relax and not only appreciate but also relish my experiences knowing how much my companions could empathize with me. I wasn’t alone in my embarrassment as the previous stories with familiar punchlines had already showed me.
With the sight walk and lunch behind us, Cheryl and I exited the restaurant and headed back to the sidewalk and Fred’s car to go home.
It wasn’t frightening like I had imagined it might be like–clashing canes like swords or tangling them up in one another’s as we attempted to move. The elements of surprise I did experience made it memorable but never stopped the flow of the event. Our goal was to celebrate personal accomplishments with our white canes as a group.
For some, that was a short walk and for others, it took much longer.
Whatever length our personal journey took us, we all arrived at the same destination.
Have you commemorated an accomplishment in a formal way lately? How did the event go? Were there any surprises?
You have just read “From the Sight Walk to the Sidewalk” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright October 16, 2015. Please take a moment and leave a comment!