A Celebration of Independence
The white cane is more than just a mobility tool for blind and low vision users. It is also a badge of strength and boldness. It allows us to take back our lives, regardless of where we fall on the sight loss spectrum.
My heart is full of gratitude for the white cane and for everything that has led me to this point in my life. Losing my sight hasn’t been easy but it’s given me an opportunity to see the world through a fresh spectrum.
In recognition of this year’s White Cane Safety Day and Blind American’s Equality Day, I’m recycling an article I wrote a while back. The following piece has been lightly edited for clarity. I hope it resonates with you! ~Steph
Vulnerability, Sight Loss & The White Cane
“What bothered me most about my sight loss was my fear of people knowing I couldn’t see. Everywhere I went I felt so vulnerable and isolated not to mention, my anxiety levels skyrocketed off into the stratosphere.”
The first time I picked up a white cane was when my Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Specialist introduced me to one for my training. Maybe it was the novelty of a new gadget that prompted me to follow through, but secretly I was bitter.
Don’t get me wrong, in the privacy of my home it was okay to learn proper caning techniques. Practicing in public though was a different story.
- What would people think?
- Are they looking at me?
- What if I run into something or someone?
- Are they laughing at me?
- Do I look foolish?
- Are they talking about me?
- Why? Why do I have to do this?
On and on these and many more questions ran through my head. I was scared, felt exposed, and vulnerable. I hated vulnerability.
After my O&M training was complete I was free to use my cane independently. So what did I do? Simple, I stashed it away and continued
With the exception of family, co-workers, and friends, no one knew I couldn’t see. The problem was I seldom went anywhere alone because while I didn’t look ‘blind’ I was.
So I continued my charade until the day I wanted to take a short stroll. I’ll never forget; I was at work it was the middle of the afternoon and I needed a little snack. I could have asked any number of people to go with me but I wanted to do this on my own. After all, it was no biggie, and I was familiar with the route to the store which wasn’t far from the office.
So Clever & So Foolish
On the elevator ride down to the lobby of my office building I had second thoughts but squashed them. As I pushed through the revolving glass doors out onto the plaza I thought maybe I should turn around.
Walking by people I didn’t know whether they noticed me and it didn’t matter. For at this moment I appeared just as sighted as anyone else. But here’s the thing: when you lack depth perception navigating uneven terrain can be tricky. Your footing is unsure so curbs, stairs, cobblestones, etc. can make walking a little dicey. My solution was to put out my right hand as if an invisible energy force would keep me from falling.
Once I reached the safety of the store I was so relieved because I made it by myself. After I bought my snacks and left the store it was just a couple of short blocks back to the office.
I did my little ‘step off the curb move’ then I heard it! A blaring car horn and someone shouting at me! How could I have missed it? The car nearly hit me and I didn’t see it coming. Shaky and on verge of tears I don’t know how I gathered myself but I made it back to the office.
Strength & Empowerment In A Simple Choice
Acceptance of a major life-altering event like illness or disability can be difficult. And even when we reach the point of acceptance, it can still be a day-to-day struggle. However, I believe strength and empowerment lead to the freedom found only in acceptance.
That day I was almost hit by a vehicle made it clear that I had a choice. I could continue living in denial. Or I could pick up my white cane, embrace my sight loss, and work to help others by sharing my story.
Today I not only use my white cane but I also proudly wear and show off my Abby swag! If you don’t know who Abby is you can check out her story HERE. Abby is a beautiful design that represents the courage and empowerment in those of us who continue to live our best lives. Abby is Bold Blind Beauty! “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers”
Happy White Cane Safety Day!
Image Descriptions & Advertisements:
- The header image is one of our Abby Branded ceramic mugs with a colorful rim, handle, and interior. The mug’s design includes fashion icon, Abby who is to the left & right of the handle. Abby is to the left of 3 lines of text (Handbag, Heels, White Cane) with 3 checkboxes. Directly under Abby, lines of text, and checkboxes is the slogan: “Ready to Conquer.”
- A mirror selfie of my black “Ready To Conquer” tee. I’m wearing a pixie cut wig, blond in the front, dark brown in the back. The design on the tee is the same as on the ceramic mug.