I joke about my long white cane being a magic wand. It has lots of different uses. When it is stretched out to full capacity, I can…
- swirl it like a baton twirler ~ though I have yet to toss it with the ends on fire.
- direct music with it if there is a stringed orchestra in front of me.
- play pool with it and call out, “Eight ball in the corner hole!”
- go one armed skiing with it if the hill isn’t too steep; I stay away from the expert slope.
- time myself in folding it up and challenge my friends to beat my time (I always WIN!)
- trip up snide kids who scream, “Why does that lady have a stick, mom?”
- draw figure eights with mud puddle water.
- knock off the hats of those rushing past me and almost pushing me over.
- do my multiplication tables in the sand on the beach
- use it as a pointer when I teach the words to new songs in Sunday School.
But, then I learned the proper use of my long, white cane – AND four rules to follow:
- Never use it as a pointer.
- Never walk backward with it.
- Never dance with it.
- Never swim with it.
I”m not sure just how these rules came to be but my mobility instructor didn’t seem to share my point-of-view. She looked over her glasses at me on the way back from our mobility training and said, “I know you have a sense of humor but you are now a representative of the blind community.” The message: behave accordingly.
I wish I had asked her how these four NEVER rules came about but I feared that would bring on a lecture. Her point, I believe, was to respect the cane (what I call a magic wand) and to use it as a proper tool to give me tactile information I could not otherwise access.
I got her point. No more silly games. Or at least be wise enough not to divulge them to your mobility trainer! I must be serious about my blind calling. Hmph! I was in denial so many years I almost didn’t answer the call! But since I did…
That means I have to GET SERIOUS. So let me educate you on the use of canes.
Using a long white cane when walking allows someone who is blind to …
- locate objects in his or her environment, such as steps, curbs, doorways, people, chairs and tables.
- The cane should be long enough to be about two steps ahead of the person’s feet when walking in order to find things with the cane before actually getting to them.
- find the length, breadth, height of the stair, know where the top is so that you step smoothly off the top stair and onto the landing without stumbling. There is a separate technique for descending the stairs smoothly as well.
There are canes of all sizes and some white canes fold up or collapse for convenience. I’m not sure “convenience” is a word that suits me. I have clobbered people in the process of folding up my cane, knocked off their hats, and tripped ’em up. That’s when I smile pretty and cross over the imaginary line to the other camp. “Thank God, I’m blind!” It gives me some lee-way when people would rather bean me back.
As my readers can see, I am clearly in both camps. I use a white cane, which I find a real help to me. But sometimes I swear I don’t really need it. Maybe that’s still me in denial. The times I don’t use my white cane are the times I run into posts or step on other people’s feet, cut in front of people and get sworn at, or knock something over!
Sometimes my vision seems relatively clear. Other times I am in a dense fog (aren’t we all, though?!). How well I see depends on how much natural ambient lighting is out or how strong the indoor lighting I have is. It also makes a difference if I am in a familiar place or not.
Once, I became disoriented when my friend’s boyfriend invited me to warm myself in front of the wood-stove. The strange thing, though, is that the wood-stove was outdoors in his backyard! Now THAT was a weird place to have a stove!
My vision acuity depends on if I’m stressed out (I see more poorly if I am) or if I have had a good night sleep. “Disoriented” is now part of my regular vocabulary, and it has nothing to with drinking alcohol. It has to do with finding my way around and being confident in my surroundings.
Today I learned how to be more confident in crossing busy city streets. This is where one’s hearing is of the utmost importance. You need to listen for the parallel traffic and the car closest to you, the car that goes straight through the intersection. When it moves, so do you. You must cross with a confident gait, and never, ever turn back even if you feel you’ve chosen to cross at a bad time. When or if you try to turn back, your indecision inevitably confuses drivers. I think I did pretty well and just scrambled back to hug my curb safety one time. And only once did a driver fool me and make a left-hand turn in my lane instead of going straight through. The rule to remember is to move with parallel traffic and to stop with perpendicular traffic.
Oh yeah, and never dance with your cane in the middle of the street crossing! Unless, of course…you’re “fake blind” like me http://creativesorbet.com/amyblog/why-i-call-myself-fake-blind/) and in the middle of a slow afternoon on a side street in Girard! What’s the harm in a little indulgence?
Ssh! Mum’s the word!