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Vulnerability, Sight Loss & The White Cane

Vulnerability, Sight Loss & The White Cane featured image description is in the body of the post.

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 rocketed 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. Perhaps it was the novelty of a new gadget is what prompted me to follow through but secretly I was bitter.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, in the privacy of my home it was okay to learn proper white cane techniques. Practicing in public 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 felt scared, 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 living pretending.

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. Afterall it was no biggie, and I was familiar with the route to the store which wasn’t far from my 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.”

Alone with nothing but my thoughts for company, I walked to the store. As I walked 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. That is if you ignored my superheroine move when stepping off curbs.

When you lack depth perception it can be tricky navigating uneven terrain. Your footing is unsure so curbs, stairs, cobblestones, etc. can make walking a little dicey. So what I would do is 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’d done 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 superheroine 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 In A Simple Choice 

Acceptance of a major life-altering event like illness or disability can be extremely difficult. And even once the choice for acceptance is made it can still be a day-to-day struggle. However, I believe strength and freedom are found in acceptance.

I realized the day I was almost mowed down by that vehicle 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 proudly wear my Abby gear! Below I describe today’s featured photo.

Vulnerability, Sight Loss & The White Cane Featured Image Description: 

A mirror selfie of my black “Relax It’s Only A Cane!” tee. I’m wearing new hair, a pixie cut wig, blond in the front, dark brown in the back. Wished I could have taken a full body photo but my phone doesn’t take pictures on voice command.

The white Abby icon is above the slogan walking with her white cane in one hand, handbag in the other. She is wearing heels and a stylish dress made of panels resembling overlapping banana leaves. The dress panels gently curve from her nipped in waist to just above the knee. Her signature hairstyle is best described as explosive.

 

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Styling A Customized White Cane

Styling gold cane and mustard shoe

Styling A Customized White Cane

Happiness Is…

When your cane and shoes match!

Image 1
Image 1

It really was a happy coincidence since I recently had one of those ‘what in the heck am I gonna wear today?’ days. In the featured photo, we see my shoe-clad foot and matching gold cane (description is below).

When I ordered my new customized ‘white canes’ I volleyed back and forth unsure of the colors I wanted. However, as I got ready for a meeting I knew the gold cane would work with my outfit choice. The problem was I hated my outfit. I walked around the house in said outfit until just before my paratransit arrived—then I did the unthinkable. I tore off my clothes, snatched a dress off the hanger, then pulled out these cute little flats I’d forgotten about.

My ride came to collect me and when he dropped me at my destination he commented on how nice my shoes looked with my cane. I’m like, “oh, why thank you!” Since I have a style reputation to uphold, I wasn’t about to tell him I didn’t know they matched. But secretly I was so delighted.

Color Coordinated Outfit Contrasting Cane

The other day I was in yet another ‘what cane should I use quandary?’ I was so tempted to use the black one because it is my favorite but reasoned that I needed contrast. Since my outfit was mainly black (with blush—muted pink—accents) I felt the gold cane would be a better choice.

In image 1, I’m sitting on a bench at the mall wearing a black tee, very comfy lightweight black pants, blush colored light knit open sweater and blush fringed flat slides. My gold cane is in my right hand. For jewelry, I’m wearing a long silver toned fringed necklace and a sparkly bracelet which I’ll talk about in a separate post.

Since I’ve always enjoyed expressing my personal style I decided to extend this logic to my cane as well. I wrote an article, Cane EnAbled—Puttin’ On The Glitz, a while back that talks a little more extensively on this topic.

Aside from flexibility in customization, I also like the folding Ambutech Slim Line canes because they are so compact. They are very light and portable although they are not as sturdy as a standard mobility cane. In view of this, I like the idea of having several back-ups just in case one should bend or break. 

What are your thoughts on customizable mobility devices?

Image 2
Image 2

Styling A Customized White Cane Featured Image Description:

The photo shows me styling my gold cane and mustard faux suede pointy slingback flat on the asphalt outside of my home. These colors coordinated nicely with my gray sleeveless A-line dress. ‏ ‏

Image 2:

A photo of my two new (black and gold) Ambutech Slim Line canes next to my older mobility cane. All three canes have five sections. The older cane has a green grip, 3 white segments, and 1 gold segment near the tip.

 

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Happy White Cane Safety Day!

White Cane Safety Day text and image desription are in the body of the post.

White Cane Safety Day celebrates the achievements of blind and visually impaired (B&VI) people in the United States 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.

This year Bold Blind Beauty participated in White Cane Safety Day festivities in Pittsburgh, PA, and Milwaukee, WI.

Market Square, Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh celebrated its White Cane Safety Day on Friday the 13th. The celebration kicked-off with Jimmy Sapienza’s Five Guys Named Moe, a fabulous jazz combo comprised partly of musicians who are blind.

We joined Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, Golden Triangle Council of the Blind, and the Bureau of Blindness and Vision Services to debut our White Cane Rules of the Road initiative. I was so grateful to hear people’s stories of loved ones living with blindness or sight loss. An added bonus was their excitement of Bold Blind Beauty’s message of changing the way we perceive one another.

Steph McCoy stands with her with cane in front of Bold Blind Beauty's display at White Cane Safety Day celebration in Pittsburgh's Market Square.
Steph McCoy stands in front of Bold Blind Beauty’s display at White Cane Safety Day celebration in Pittsburgh’s Market Square.

A personal highlight of the event was when one of my good friends came by to help man our exhibit. She was ecstatic when she found out all of our materials were also in accessible formats. So ecstatic, she began reading her braille packet almost as soon as she sat down.

Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh table, banners and awareness materials.
Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh table, banners and awareness materials.

Milwaukee County Courthouse, Milwaukee, WI

In Milwaukee, on October 17, Bold Blind Beauty joined Industries for the Blind (IB) to celebrate White Cane Safety Day. At our exhibit table, we shared our materials with more than 80 blind young people and their parents. In addition to White Cane Rules of the Road WI, we shared information on empowerment for B&VI women.

2017 Milwaukee White Cane Day Celebration at Milwaukee County Courthouse
2017 Milwaukee White Cane Day Celebration at Milwaukee County Courthouse

Summary

As White Cane Safety Day recognizes the contributions of B&VI people within our society, Bold Blind Beauty will continue its mission of changing the way we perceive one another. Empowering B&VI women as well as connecting sighted and nonsighted communities to end misconceptions about blindness is the path to our mission. 

Description: www.boldblindbeauty.com template with Abigale (Abby) to the left of the quote. The Abby icon is shown walking with her white cane in one hand and handbag in the other. The image is black and white and she wears a stylish black dress and black heels. Her signature hairstyle is best described as explosive.

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Bold Blind Beauty Offers “Rules of The Road”

For Proper Cane Use at White Cane Day

Several White Cane Rules of the Road cards spread out on a tableToday, Bold Blind Beauty is pleased to announce its “White Cane Rules of the Road” initiative. In partnership with the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind, the initiative conveys tips for both blind and visually impaired (B&VI) persons and sighted persons—particularly motorists—to help keep B&VI persons safe whenever they are using their white mobility cane to navigate.

The White Cane Rules of the Road initiative kicks off with a card—printed in large type for low-vision persons, and in braille for blind persons—as part of an information packet about boldblindbeauty.com. It will début at White Cane Day celebrations in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and Milwaukee Wisconsin.

“With increasing dangers such as quiet, hybrid cars, more complex traffic patterns, and multi-media distractions, it’s imperative that drivers are constantly on the lookout for pedestrians using white canes and dog guides.” ~Susan Lichtenfels, President, Pennsylvania Council of the Blind

Teal and white braille Bold Blind Beauty silicon bracelets, each in its own mesh drawstring gift bag and Bold Blind Beauty business cards.

The card provides tips on how to be safe when using a white cane, and inscribed on the back, are state statutes outlining the proper protocol for motorists when around B&VI cane users. The Bold Blind Beauty tables at each event will have Bold Blind Beauty braille-labeled wristbands, informational packets, and sample promotional items such as mugs and T-shirts from the website. 

In addition to indicating that a person is blind or visually impaired, the long thin 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 provides the means for us to take back our lives, regardless of where we fall on the sight loss spectrum.” ~Stephanae McCoy

Collage of Bold Blind Beauty informational packets in print, large print and braille. The bottom photo is my Ambutech custom white cane. The grip is neon green, the last section is neon yellow and the rest of the cane is white.

White Cane Safety Day celebrates B&VI people’s achievements in the United States on October 15 every year. It also increases awareness of the white cane traffic safety laws. Following are details for the White Cane Safety Day celebrations in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee.

  • Friday, October 13th 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM in Market Square, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Tuesday, October 17th 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM CT Milwaukee County Courthouse, Milwaukee County Courthouse – South Entrance, Milwaukee, WI

If you happen to be in Pittsburgh or Milwaukee on the above dates please stop by the Bold Blind Beauty table to say hello, pick up your White Cane Rules of the Road, and a little swag. For more information about White Cane Rules of the Road visit us online at boldblindbeauty.com.