The White Cane at the Airport

“You’re going to have to lead her,” one TSA agent says to another. They stand somewhere to the left in my blind spot. I wait in line at the body scanner for the first time since owning a white cane. I wonder if I should have folded up my cane and set it in a gray container with my other carry-ons.

I’m probably the only person with a white cane in the proximate area, so I take a chance. I glance their way, following where the voice emanated from.

One of the agents steps over to me, saying, “Ma’am, can you please step over here?” He puts out his hand tentatively to my shoulder, but never actually touches it. I nod in agreement and sidestep to the basic metal detector. The second agent motions for me to walk under the arch. I pass through. It beeps. I turn around. I hand the first agent my cane and pass through the detector a second time. No beeps. My cane is placed on the conveyor belt to be x-rayed.

“Ok ma’am. You can proceed,” says the second agent, nodding at me and pointing forward. I walk with hesitation towards the collection area, unsure about cables that may be stretched on the floor or where agents and passengers crisscross. All of the gray bins that spit out from the x-ray machine look the same to me, filled with indiscernible contents. I scan the area methodically, but I don’t see my hus­­band. He must be in the body scanner.

I sidled up to an empty spot at the conveyor and watch for my things to appear in one of the bins below me. I feel a hand on my shoulder.

“I’m here. Our stuff is at the end,” my husband says, as he tilts his head to the right.

I see an agent lift my cane off the belt and walk toward me. “Thanks,” I say, taking my confidence back from him.


20 Comments Add yours

  1. Modwyn says:

    A similar thing happened to me in New York, but I refused to step forward without my cane. Instead, I explained that I couldn’t walk without my cane. I saw no point in endangering myself or allowing others to think that the cane is something I can do without. It wasn’t easy though. The security people were brusque and harried, but I insisted. I think it’s time they learn they can’t just rush us through without realizing why we carry the implements we need!

    1. I never know what to expect the first time I do things I have done before sans cane. You’re right about educating. Next time I will be asking for my cane before I walk.

  2. Even though I don’t have one yet, I know I’m soon there. In fact, your statement “taking my confidence back” is a big reason why.

    Last week, we went to the zoo. Worst experience ever. I had to keep looking down to walk, and then up to the exhibits. At one point, I had looked down, and we stood still a few moments. Hubby moved forward, and I tried to follow. I managed to step on a red-headed waist-high child standing in front of me. I don’t remember anymore of the zoo visit.

    1. April: no fun with that zoo experience. I hope you get the cane lessons soon. When I was waiting for my referral and set up for O &M lessons, I made follow up calls to make sure the staff knew I was excited to learn and motivated. I figured it couldn’t hurt.

  3. Modwyn says:

    I don’t like the zoo! I can’t see anything, and I can smell everything!

    Taking the cane into new frontiers is VERY difficult, especially if you’re with people who knew you from your pre-cane days. I’ve had many friends and family members say, “Do you REALLY need your cane right now?” and I have to say calmly, “Yes I do.” It is challenging, but the new confidence and safety more than make up for it. Plus, using the cane gives you tons of adventures to write about!

    1. Modwyn: Countless adventures!

  4. Trisha says:

    My heart goes out to you. Airports are scary enough places without extra challenges. I’m glad you made it through without serious mishap.

    1. Trisha: All’s well that ends well. 🙂

  5. Chelle says:

    As someone with hearing loss, I kind of dread those moments at the airport. I’ve got the routine down now but they always want to talk where I can’t see them so I don’t hear them. Even if I tell them I can’t hear them without seeing them they still do it out of habit. A few have given me a gentle touch on the shoulder or elbow so I can look over and see them telling me to come out now.

    1. Chelle: So true. Talking to us out of our range always creates that disconnect until we find that middle ground to communicate.

  6. Chelle says:

    Also, I’ve been told some airports (but not all) have a ‘handicap’ section open at security gates. We can use them if we want. It bypasses long lines sometimes too.

    1. Chelle: Interesting. I will look into this for the airport I live near.

  7. WOW. I can’t stop reading….

    1. The Scottie Chronicles: Thanks! I can’t stop writing 🙂

  8. jackthecat7 says:

    I named my cane Lancelot because it is my strength, shield and hero! I was legally blind for 7 months before I even knew I qualified for a cane. I was working, riding the bus and walking at night unable to see the ground beneath my feet or things around me. My family says I’m stubborn but really, what other choice was there? I will not let my cane leave my hand any place but home and work. I look back at the bc (before cane) days and can’t believe I survived.

    1. Jackiethcat7: Thanks for sharing your experience. The white cane allows us to be so much more confident and safe. Love your cane name.

  9. I would like to hear about your experience and possibly share it on my blog if you’re interested. I would like to try to start a movement about this problem. I had a TSA work take away my cane while flying last time. And want to see if I can start some form of movement on this issue. Also would be interested to find out how many people have had this problem. If you’re interested in chatting please reach out to me. Your new friend Chelsea

    1. Hey Chelsea, in the years since I wrote this post, I usually just fold up my cane and put it in one of the bins to be x-rayed when I fly. I don’t bother trying to keep it with me. It can be tough sometimes when the TSA agent is motioning to come through the body scanner and I can’t quite tell if they’re trying to communicate with me or not. No one has ever been rude to me in those times. If I would experience unprofessional behavior, I surely would make it clear that I was visually impaired and I could not hear silent communication, LOL.

      1. Thank you for reaching out to me. Would love to chat with you about other things.

      2. Feel free to email adventuresinlowvision AT gmail dot com

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