Myth Busted

Images shows a white cane standing in a corner.It happens where I spend a lot of time. And I speak for myself, not for everyone who uses a white cane. However, some of my peers have had similar experiences. The first place where it happened is my home. Shocker: I don’t use my white cane in my house, I check my movement in other ways. Although hey if a dog toy gets lost under my couch, the cane makes retrieval a cinch.

The next place it happened: my mom and dad’s house, where I spent my childhood stomping up the stairs, running around the kitchen table with my sister, and doing ill-advised activities like sponge painting my bedroom. At my friend Beth‘s house the open layout and the fact that I tend to be on the same level more or less means I don’t need my cane. At my friend Lina’s, her front stoop can be tricky, but once I’m inside, I store my cane in a corner so I have both hands free to gesture and drink as we chat for hours. 

There are times I carry my white cane more for identification than constantly wayfind. Wherever a shiny shopping cart rolls I could be comfortable, but I don’t shop in empty stores. Random floor displays in awkward locations, erratic shoppers not paying attention, and zig zagging children all surprise me. In public, people tend to notice my cane which gives me grace if I slamdance a shipper of toothpaste.

The truth is I don’t require my cane all the time. Just as some people who use wheelchairs don’t need them 100% of the time. That doesn’t mean we fake our disabilities. It indicates the range, the variety of disabilities. For example, we may have enough energy or familiarity to not need a mobility device for the moment. And, some spaces are more accessible.

I’ve lived with my disability for years. Not only did I receive O&M training, I make independent decisions to suit my situation and current challenges. Sometimes I would rather hold Stockton’s arm as we go in a busy area. I trust him completely to tell me about hazards. If I choose unwisely to walk down a wide orchard lane without assistance, I risk hitting low branches and stumbling into gopher holes. No thanks. If I have any doubt, I carry my cane.

I determine when I need my mobility aid depending on the circumstances. I’m not the only person living with a disability who does this. I do wish the fluidity of the need for accommodation would be better understood. Believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time on this.

What do you think mobility aids signal? How do you use yours? Tell me about it. 


9 Comments Add yours

  1. I think you explain this very well, thank you. Disclaimer: I have Multiple Sclerosis and a spinal cord injury, so my wheelchair is not an option. I want it to fit, look nice, and have a bit of bling. Incredibly light sensitive, if I need a certain tint, it will be worn despite odd looks from strangers. To me an aid is just that. It is a badge of strength, courage, and ambition. Just as you use your cane to find the house and then leave it, I use my wheelchair to get me somewhere and then transfer. We are neither confined by our aids or bound to them with duct tape. It’s hard at first, but we soon find a smile and thank overshadow the device. Be bold.

    1. Typo… smile and thank you …

    2. Thanks, George. What a great comment to share.

  2. Good point. Because my problem is in focussing I only carry a warning stick to signal my disability to sighted people. However I have lost patience with its usefulness in the face of so many people with their heads buried in their cell phones. I walk along gently swaying my stick from side to side hoping I will be noticed. Particularly unobservant are young parents with children in tow. Children milling around, parents absorbed in their phones. So far I have resisted the temptation to use my stick as a weapon but watch this spacel.

    1. Ah yes, Bridget. The never-ending cane vs. phone street fight for attention. Good luck out there.

  3. Casee says:

    You explained this issue so well. I have a friend that doesn’t use her cane everywhere she goes and heaven help her if someone that doesn’t know her very well sees her without it! The rudeness begins. ‘I thought you were blind?’ ‘So you can see?’ ‘You’ve been faking?’ It is all so exhausting for her. The level of ignorance towards the low vision community is astounding.

  4. I grew up with some usable vision – RP. People including teachers either thought I should be in a school for the blind or that I was faking my vision loss. I never had cane travel and went for my first of five guide dogs right after college. I used a cane between dogs – this last time it was for over a year, and I gained a lot of appreciation for cane travel. I get a lot out of having a guide dog. It’s more than just a signal to the public, though I think that is a benefit of both the white cane and the guide dog. I’m in the country now, but I lived in the Philadelphia area for many years. I’m really glad we didn’t have cell phones back then.

    1. Donna, thanks for sharing your experiences.

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