I can’t believe I wrote “From Passing To Passion—Finding Strength In The White Cane” only three years ago, it feels like a lifetime. Even so, when I reread this I only changed one word and because of WordPress updates had to swap out photos and make formatting adjustments. This piece is short and gives only a glimpse into my sight loss journey and yet it still resonates with me. I hope it is encouraging for others who may be struggling with sight loss and the adaptations that can increase independence. While I’m still learning and growing I’m grateful for the many people who’ve helped me along the way. ~Steph
From Passing To Passion—Finding Strength In The White Cane 2021
“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.”
Longing For Invisibility
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 rocketed off into the stratosphere.
Each step I took was a step closer to breaking my neck. So what was my solution as my sight kept deteriorating? I faked it of course.
Adjusting to sight loss is a process and everyone who goes through it does so in a different way. I was so used to putting on my professional mask each day. It was important to me for people saw what I wanted them to see—a composed person. Yet after work, and sometimes throughout the day while hiding in a restroom stall, I was a blubbering mess. My life was unraveling.
When I met with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) to discuss the assistive technology I would need to keep my job, I was stunned when he mentioned the white cane. To determine my needs, I had to answer questions but I never thought the white cane would enter the discussion. For Pete’s sake, I mean I couldn’t see but I wasn’t blind. I had a lot to learn.
The Turning Point
“The only person you are fooling is yourself when you pretend you CAN see when you clearly CAN’T.” This comment from the VRC didn’t go over well with me. Even so, I grudgingly took Orientation and Mobility training to learn how to use the white cane. Once my lessons were over the cane went to my closet where it stayed for months.
My eventual acceptance of the white cane came about as I began to accept my sight loss. Meeting and befriending blind people who strongly advocate for the rights of blind persons led me to volunteer for several blind organizations. Becoming a part of the blind community and refocusing my efforts on helping others was the most important piece that ultimately gave me a sense of peace.
I still have days where I don’t feel as secure as I’d like, we all do, but when I come back to my ‘why,’ I can recharge, readjust, and refocus to stoke the fire of my passion. Improving humanity by changing the way we perceive one another is my mission and to achieve it I must continue moving forward and doing so with my white cane. I’ve found that being Bold Blind and Beautiful comes from living life to the best of my ability.
If you’re facing a similar white cane struggle, it’s okay. You got this! ~Steph
From Passing To Passion Featured Image Descriptions:
- The header is of a photo of me standing with my gold Ambutech slimline #WhiteCane in the Erie Greyhound terminal wearing jeans, olive tee, olive sweater, tan ball cap, light flats, and wooden hoop earrings. I have on my Checkered Eye “low vision” pin and am holding an olive backpack and denim jacket. This photo is especially meaningful to me because it was the first time I took a solo bus trip from PA to NY as my best friend was diagnosed with cancer and I had to get to her.
- I’m standing in the grass in front of a tree with my color-coordinated (gold) white cane. My Steeler tee paired with white jeans and tan flats is a gray v-neck with black and gold team colors. Mental note the next time I go to this area of town I’ll use one of my regular mobility canes as the sidewalks aren’t in the best of shape and while I like the slimline canes my son had to be a sighted guide for my safety.