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.