15 October, every year is White Cane Awareness Day. For
blind people, the white cane is an essential tool that gives us the ability to
achieve a full and independent life. It allows us to move freely and safely
from place to place—whether it’s at work, at school, or around our
neighborhoods. White Cane Awareness Day is our way of emphasizing the critical
role that this tool plays in living the lives we want and informing the public
about its true significance.
I remember my first experience with the White Cane shortly after losing my sight due to Glaucoma in the year 2011. It was at the institution for the blind in my city. I was at the institute for Mobility and Orientation training ready for my journey with the White Cane. Unlike many who have lost their sight mid-life; I did not have any apprehensions or reservations about using this simple and yet crucial mobility aid. I wasn’t really thinking about what others would think of me, how I looked or what impression it would have on others about me. All I wanted to do is be able to travel independently and this was my tool/ aid which would help me achieve my objective.
It wasn’t all that easy mastering this mobility aid. When I first met my instructor, I had one too many questions in my mind. My face expressed this very well, imagine a toad with a frown. My instructor caught this and asked me immediately, “what seems to be bothering you?” I with some concern in my voice and mind answered “I am not sure how I am going to be able to walk and travel independently, when I can’t see”
My instructor laughed at my concern and question but did
revert with a convincing and encouraging answer which was “My dear friend, you
need legs to walk not eyes” and then introduced me to my companion for life,
not Kylie Minogue, but the White Cane.
Thus began my journey with efforts to master the White Cane. We had in house training every day for the first week where we used the cane to move around the campus of the institute and were given tasks to do, mainly chores for the staff like going to the Braille library and getting the books they wanted etc. Once we were comfortable with using the cane in the campus, it was time to step out into the world of unkept roads and unpredictable traffic. I called it the “Danger Zone” and could hear the OST of the 1986 movie “Top Gun” in my head.
The technique was simple; follow the shore line (pavement
edge) of the road using your white cane and stay stuck to it till you get to
the place you want to go. Yeah right!, I said to myself. What do you do when
you come across an intersection?, What do you do when you want to cross the
road? What do you do when there is no pavement to follow the shore line to?
What do you do when you think you are the place you want to be but you are not?
I got all the answers I needed in due course of the time I was training with
Yoda; sorry, I mean my instructor. I was paired with another Visually Impaired
person who had partial sight to help build my confidence. My heart was pounding
when I stepped out of the gate of the institute, the same kind of pounding you
get when proposing for the first time to a girl/ boy, the same kind of pounding
you get when you get an exam paper with questions to which you know none of the
answers. OK, I think you got the point, it was fear of the unknown!
Keeping it short, within no time I was doing outdoor travel with my White Cane and traveled my city using the public transport mainly buses and did tasks like getting bread, biscuits and other stuff for the rest of the trainees all by myself. It was then and it is now that I confidently travel in my city using my trusty friend the White Cane. It took some practice and a whole lot of confidence to be able to be independent in a world that could see. I traveled to other cities in my country by flight, bus and train but I was accompanied by friends or family during these trips. I am yet to go solo out of my city and this is going to be my first dare post the pandemic!
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