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White Cane Day Celebrates B&VI People

White Cane Day Celebrates Featured Image Description is in the body of the post.

White Cane Day Celebrates B&VI People

“The white cane is more than just a mobility tool for blind and vision impaired 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.”

~Bold Blind Beauty

White Cane Day celebrates the achievements of blind and visually impaired (B&VI) on October 15 every year. It also reminds people of how the white cane is an important tool in helping the B&VI live with greater independence.

We are extraordinary. We are able to see the world through a spectrum few get to experience. No matter where we fall on the blindness range we have developed skills from self-care to independent living that allow us to take full advantage of our remaining sensory systems. Among our ranks are poets, ballerinas, teachers, composers, models, pianists, writers, singers, social workers, psychologists, photographers, artists, fashion designers, lawyers, physicians, athletes, chefs, yoga instructors, astrophysicists, chefs, and the list goes on. We chose to soar and continue to thrive beyond physical limitations because we understand there is always a way.

White Cane Day Celebrates Featured Image Description:

Bold Blind Beauty template with fashion icon Abby to the left of the text. Abby is walking with her white cane in one hand and handbag in the other. The image and text are white with a black background. She wears a stylish dress and heels and is sporting her signature explosive hairstyle. 

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Embracing Disability Through Self-Expression

Embracing Disability Through Self-Expression featured image description is in the body of the post.

Embracing Disability Through Self-Expression

I’ve always loved fashion and style. So when it came to my white cane I thought why not use it beyond its intended role? Why can’t it help express my inner sense of being, much like my hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, and jewelry?

~Abby
Abby & Gold Cane

Hi Everyone, Abby here! It’s been a while since I’ve last spoken with you. The boss lady (Steph) has me going hither and yon all while working behind the scenes. Today though, I want to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart―embracing disability through self-expression.

During my business trip to the UK, I met up with my friend Vicky (Victoria Claire) to accompany her to Dublin. As an Ambassador for Retina UK, Vicky serves to help people living with sight loss understand life is not over. She shares her message of hope through the 3 A’s―acceptance, adaptability, and accessibility.

Depending on the severity, acquiring a disability at any time during our lives can be a soul-crushing experience. There are a plethora of articles about the fear of blindness and how people feel it would end their life. It’s no wonder when we find ourselves in this very situation we balk and some of us give up. Granted, working through sight loss is a deeply personal ordeal and getting through it can be an ongoing process.

When we lose our eyesight it can feel like a small part of us is dying. Our whole world shifts and like a baby learning how to walk and talk, we have to learn to adapt. Sustaining a part of ourselves that’s familiar yet tweaked to our new life circumstance becomes a lifesaver.

Customized Colored Canes At Home & Across The Pond

For me, I’ve always loved fashion and style. So when it came to my white cane I thought why not use it beyond its intended role? Why can’t it help express my inner sense of being, much like my hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, and jewelry?

While there is some debate on using customized or more specifically colored canes, my canes are an extension of me. I believe what makes blind and visually impaired people stand apart from other cane users is our technique. Our canes are used to help us navigate by probing to let us know if there is an obstacle in our path. 

So it was fabulous meeting up with Vicky, both of us with canes in hand (hers black and mine gold). Both of us noticed a significant difference in how we were received by those around in our respective countries and Dublin. 

Here in the U.S., with the explosion of mobile devices, it seems like people aren’t really attentive to their surroundings in general. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Research Note “2016 pedestrian fatality count (5,987) is the highest number since 1990.”

In the UK when we were making our way through the airport people seemed to be oblivious to us using our canes. However, when we arrived at the Dublin airport the attitude was very different. It was immediately recognized that our mobility canes were for the blind.

Freedom To Express Ourselves

The hotel we stayed at was very lovely and had good lighting in the room, along with contrasting colors in the bathroom. We visited the Jameson Distillery which was really great and we also spent a lot of time walking. The River Liffey was well paved with decking and a nice and flat walk area for us.

When we went to the NewsTalk Radio Station Studio, they couldn’t have done enough for us. The conference, held in a large and well-lit conference room was very organized. Overall we had a great time in Dublin and I for one cannot wait to return one day soon. Vicky said it best:

The world can become a much more accessible place, somewhere we are all free to express ourselves and we are not stuck in a limiting space.

While I cannot speak for Vicky, I believe she would agree with me that those who choose to use the standard white cane rock as do we!

Embracing Disability Featured Image Description:

A futuristic image of a 3-D wire-frame female body rising through clouds with arms raised above her head. In the background, a silhouette of a mountain range can be seen peeping above the clouds.


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Gain Independence & Rock The Cane

Gain Independence Featured image description is in the body of the post.

It makes sense for advocates to be borne out of situations in which we find ourselves, like disabilities for example. However, let’s not forget those who dedicate their time, talents, and passion to improve our lives with the gift of independence.  

Bold Blind Beauty

The following article written by Jennifer Freeman Fullerton speaks to her role in helping people with sight loss regain their independence.

Gain Independence & Rock The Cane

Image description is in the body of the post.
#1 – Jennifer Fullerton

I have been an Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist in the San Diego County area for approximately twelve years. My experience encompasses working with children ranging in age from three through twenty-two. Many of the students I have worked with have multiple disabilities.

Passionate about what I teach, I focus on helping my students gain independence in all aspects of their lives. As a professional in the field, I’ve seen first-hand what a long cane does for a student with vision loss. The level of independence and confidence a cane provides, cannot be described in words. I often show up to school campuses and am told by staff that my students are running down the hallways. Of course, as their O&M Specialist, I don’t want to hear that but as their teacher, I smile because I know that I was a part of building that confidence.

Image description is in the body of the post.
#2 – Jennifer & her daughter

Adding Technology To The Mix

Since technology is opening up so many doors for people with disabilities, I have pursued as many learning opportunities as possible.  Specifically, anything that can help people who have visual impairments. What I have observed across all educational platforms is that technology is underutilized, especially applications (apps). For that reason, I began writing blogs for Cane and Compass to share my ideas with an emphasis on how to incorporate technology into O&M instruction.

I recently started a Rock the Cane Facebook Page and Campaign about two months ago. Since entering my amazing profession, I have dreamed of starting the campaign, long before any type of smart device or social media platform was available to utilize. I consider Rock the Cane to be my hobby and passion project. My goal with the campaign is to change the world’s perception of vision loss. I believe that by invoking help from the community, social media, people in power and individuals who know what it’s like to live with vision loss, we can work together to globally change perception.

I am lucky and blessed to impact the lives of many in my community who have vision loss.

Gain Independence Featured Image Description:

Jennifer is wearing a Rock the Cane navy t-shirt with images of brunette cartoon characters wearing black sunglasses. The image on the left is a brunette male and the image on the right is a female. Both characters are rocking long red and white canes. Jennifer is standing in front of a window and wood bench.

Additional Images:

  1. In this photo, Jennifer is wearing a navy “Orientation & Mobility Specialist” sweatshirt. This shirt has a graphic of a female cartoon character rocking her long cane. 
  2. Jennifer and her young daughter are holding hands. Jennifer is wearing a Cane & Compass gray tee that says “It’s Just A Cane.”

Connecting With Jennifer On Social Media:

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People Always Ask: Is Kai Really Blind?

Kai skimboarding

Blindness has changed our lives and has forced us to see the world in a new way. As a mom, I’ve had to constantly reevaluate what I “think” about blindness and replace my outdated thoughts with our new lived experiences.

~Kim Owens

People Always Ask: Is Kai Really Blind?

Hi, I’m Kim Owens. I am a wife, blogger, watercolor artist, swimmer and I’ve been fighting a tough autoimmune disease for the last 9 years. I’m also the mother of 2 boys–Cash an avid rock climber and college junior studying geology and Kai a sponsored skimboarder and drummer in a local rock band. Kai’s also held the highest GPA in his class for the last 5 years and accomplished all of this while going blind from Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP).

Family of 4 sits around a table enjoying a meal.

People are always asking “Is he really blind?” When we say, yes, they typically reply, “I don’t know how he does it. He’s amazing! If I were blind I would never leave my house.” To which we say, “Yes, he’s amazing, has lots of support, and we don’t allow ourselves to project our fears about blindness onto him.”

Blindness is one of the most feared conditions in the world. If this fear is allowed to propagate unchallenged, it will create a barrier between blind and sighted people.

Blindness Is Just Another Way Of Seeing

Blindness changed our lives and has forced us to see the world in a new way. As a mom, I constantly reevaluate what I “think” about blindness and replace my outdated thoughts with our new lived experiences.

For example, my fear may say: “No, he can’t go into town with his friends. Who will make sure he’s safe when crossing the streets?” But my voice of experience overrules these outdated thoughts with: “He is probably safer than his friends who are walking while staring at their phones. Kai is highly trained in orientation and mobility and as long as he uses his cane then I will allow him to go.”

Kai began skimboarding when he was 3 and fully sighted. As a blind teen, he’s continually improved his skills and has graduated from sand skimming to skimming the big waves. Kai typically meets up to skim with other local skimboarders early in the morning before the beach is crowded. So when he wanted to compete in an out of state skimboarding competition, my fear said:

 “There is no way he can compete against sighted skimboarders, on a crowded, unfamiliar beach.” But my voice of experience spoke up and said: “Maybe I just need to look at this differently…”

Kai

With Creative Thinking There’s Always A Way

  • What if there is a cane tip that can be used in the sand? YES! Check out the Dakota Disk.
  • What if competition organizers were open to the idea and able to offer a sighted guide? They were thrilled, they agreed immediately, and several pros offered to assist.  
  • What if he had the opportunity to compete and change public perceptions of what is possible for blind kids? Event organizers asked him to give a live interview in front of the crowd and he provided the audience an opportunity to try on simulation glasses. Many beliefs about blindness were changed that day.

Do you see the difference in these thought patterns? It’s a mind shift that starts with awareness of our thoughts. In my blog post “A New Way to See” I describe the exact moment I became aware of the disparity between my thoughts and reality – and it was a life changer.

Kai’s Achievements & Continuing Success

For me, it all boiled down to realizing that my internal thoughts were limiting my ability to be fully present to my son’s real-life experiences. In the last 6 years Kai:

  • learned to read Braille and Nemeth code
  • became proficient at using assistive technology 
  • learned how to navigate busy city streets with a cane
  • continued to skimboard and skateboard
  • became a drummer in a rock band that does gigs all around town  
  • is attending honors courses at our local high school

In addition to everything Kai has already achieved, his short-term plans include learning to snowboard and applying for a guide dog. Thankfully, his dad, brother and I have been fully present and able to support his journey toward independence.

Chances are that your visually impaired child is not interested in skimboarding, but no matter what their passion, please don’t let your own fears become a barrier to your child’s success.  

Featured Image Description:

Kai is skimming a wave creating a large spray of water in his wake. He’s wearing a black wetsuit and bright yellow jersey that reads Blind Athlete.

Additional Images:
  • The family of 4 sits around a table enjoying a meal.
  • Kai as a 3-year-old skimming the whitewashed sand, and his 8-year-old brother Cash is holding a skimboard in the background.