“If I use a cane… then the whole world will stare at me. I will look like a BLIND person! I’m only sorta kinda blind. I can see contrast and blurry objects, so I’ll be fine without it. I don’t want to hold a cane, It just stresses me out. White canes and ugly sunglasses are not for me. What if my friends see me with it? They will look and whisper… “OMG, Look at Maria! She must be really blind now… she needs to use one of those things, you know, a white cane!”
That’s what I used to think. Yeah. I didn’t understand what a mobility cane was all about. It was just a horrible, horrible thing that I didn’t want to talk about! Did you read the GGB blog I wrote last year? (“That four letter word…” ~ March 2014) I was anti-cane all the way! Well, I now know, at least for me, those anxious thoughts were part of the first stage of “white cane acceptance”.
Nobody who has just been told they are legally blind starts using a white mobility cane that same damn day. It just doesn’t happen like that!! Seriously, nobody in their right mind dreams of using a white cane OR going unexpectedly blind for that matter! Just. doesn’t. happen. So, at the risk of sounding like a Girl Gone Bad….my blog, I’ll take the risk. If YOU had no issues with grabbing a white cane and skipping happily down the road the same day you were told you were permanently blind, YOU are fooling no one!!! Now go back to stuffing down your true feelings with a dozen denial doughnuts! You might want to try therapy or a support group… it’s healthier and less calories… Just sayin’.
Anyway…I know some folks can safely manage getting around 100% of the time using only the low vision they have. Many people with LHON can do that, but not me. Some folks are okay relying on others to grab, push, or pull them in different directions to keep them safe in busy places. I toootally thought I would be okay just relying on others to guide me and keep me out of trouble. Well, not so much. I grew soooo tired of being handled like a runaway toddler! I always try my best to dodge the obstacles around me using my low vision. Sometimes my best doesn’t quite cut it. People and objects appear out of the blurry fog (I.e. my vision) too quickly for me to react and get out of the way. These days, people are busy on their phones, rude, and nobody has time to watch out for a blind girl! Especially if they can’t tell that I’m blind! Situations can get stressful for me and for the friends or family who are trying to guide me. It took me months to realize that using a cane would remedy some of these stressful times.
My decision to start using a cane was made in stages. I’ve been through them all at this point and It was not an easy process. I can break down the process of “white cane acceptance” into four stages. I’m not going to explain each stage in great detail because that would make this long blog even longer! So, since I don’t want to bore the shizzola out of you, I’ll keep it simple. Please keep in mind… these “stages” may differ from yours, but this is how I see it!
Stage 1: DENY the cane. A cane? Oh hell no! No Thanks! Canes are for those other blind people. You don’t want anyone to see you with one. Don’t talk about it. Don’t touch it. You’re sure you’ll never have to use IT! Newly blind and in denial is a safe, yet dangerous place to be.
Stage 2: CONSIDER the cane. The other cool blind kids say that the cane gave them back their Independence. They were more mobile. They felt confident and safe going places. The cane would keep them from walking into a tree or a person. The cane gives them their independent life back. Wow. Get my independence back? Hmm, that sounds really, really good!
Stage 3: TRY the cane. Other blind kids use it, how bad could it be? You make the call to an organization that offers orientation & mobility training. You take the leap and start training with an O & M instructor. You sit through an hour of “Show and Tell” as the instructor explains the different types of canes. (Who knew there were so many?!?) You pick one. You go out of your comfort zone as you hit the streets. The sick feeling in your stomach dissolves as you create the confidence you need. Each training opportunity forces you to experience the benefits of using a cane.
Stage 4: USE the cane. Just as vision loss has become a part of your life, so has the cane. It’s an accessory you never knew you needed (I also need a Tiffany necklace, where’s that?), and you bring it with you wherever you go. Your cane will see the obstacles and people will see the cane as you walk independently. There is less stress and anxiety for you and whoever you’re with. You might EVEN order canes in different colors. Why? Because you CAN! (Yep, I bought a pink one and a blue one!) If you have to hold it, why always carry basic black? So boring!
Okay… there ya go! I suspect many of us blind kids can relate to these 4 stages. (If you don’t, go back to eating your denial doughnuts.) Learning, accepting, and using a white cane takes time. Lots of time. I needed to go through the stages and you might too. If a mobility cane may be of help to YOU, and YOU decide it’s time to tackle this damn thing…. Go for it! It’s not as bad as you think! Trust me, YOU will work that cane like a Rock Star when YOU are ready!