White Cane Folded  The white cane  White cane

Fear of The White Cane

Perhaps the worst fear to me so far, in this sight loss journey (I’m only two months in) is The White Cane.  To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really think about it a great deal, until I spoke to my Rehabilitation Officer over the telephone last week.  When I put the telephone down, I tried to research it as much as I could.  Looking for video’s, photographs, comments made, and white cane users perspectives.

Today, my rehabilitation officer came to visit me at home, and we had a long discussion about many aspects of living with visual impairement.  He then suddenly said, we have skirted around the issue for a while now, so, I’m just going to show you it, and talk a little bit about it.  He got a white cane out and I just instantly froze.

I was shown how to unfold and fold the cane, how to hold it, and discussed the benefits of using it.  Many thoughts ran through my mind as we were speaking:

Do I really need a white cane?  Is my vision that bad? I do have an element of residual vision, I’m not blind – If I ever use a white cane, won’t people therefore think I am a fraud, pretending to be blind, trying to get what I can from the system?  If people see me using it walking down the street, and then sit down in a restaurant, or go to the supermarket – won’t it be alike a comedy sketch on TV.  What will my friends and family say?

Well, as we worked through some of those questions, the majority of people using a white cane do have some residual vision , some more than others, and only around 4% actually have NOP vision at all. So, why do people who can “see” need a white cane?

My mind was working overtime, and as we continued the conversation, the benefits came thick and fast, when applying hot to my visual situation.  At the moment, when I walk, especially outside, in the daytime, If  I am walking with people, I am forever bumping into them, or lamp posts, or other objects.  If in someone else company, visually I can only concentrate on one thing – the person or people I am with, or whats right in front, or below me, and whichever it is I choose to concentrate on, the other two present me with hazards and problems.

With a white cane, I am learning that it provides you with a great deal of feedback.  The tip of the cane is placed on the floor, and you simply move it from side to side as you walk. On the very comfortable handle, there is a flat side that you place your finger onto.  As the cane glides from side to side, you “feel” the texture of whatever the tip is touching.  So, on my wooden floor, it I haver a rug in front of the fire.  As you sweep across, the cane feels totally different as it finds the rug, and you fee it move from the flat flooring, up a notch onto the rug and then across the rug.

If walking on the path, the cane touches )and you feel) lamp posts, kerbs and all other obstacles.  The cane needs to be the correct length, as you need a good two strides worth in front of you. This then gives you the time to feel the obstacle, and you can then navigate around it, before you actually walk into, or trip over it.  The cane feels what I cannot see.

I dont see people, or objects in my periphery at all, so, the sweeping motion of the cane finds those things in. my blind spots, making me aware that something is there.

I do not feel at all comfortable anywhere outside these days unless I am with someone.  When I am with someone, I either hold onto their arm, or their shoulder, or a sleeve etc, and kind of “follow” them. Doing this helps me to avoid the obstacles, as they are not going to walk into them, so, neither, in theory am I.

The number of times that I have tripped down a curb, walked into someone, or a floor sign, or a cone etc is too numerous to mention.  When this does happen, If people see , then I laugh it off, say or agree with he person who makes a remark, how gormless I am, or, Iv’e had one too many etc.  Occasionally, It has been met with aggression when I have walked into someone by accident, and they have reacted aggressively towards me.

Then, through talking with my rehabilitation officer. I realised that, of course people will laugh at me, or even act aggressively towards me when I walk into them.  They DON’T KNOW that I have sight problems…How would they?  If I used my white cane, people will be alerted to the fact I have sight problems, and will (hopefully) be much more forgiving and helpful.

The vast majority of white cane users have some residual vision

I didn’t know that the majority of white cane users could still see some things, until now.  I thought they were totally blind.

A friend of mine made a comment on my facebook page a short while ago, when I plucked up the courage to mention the sight problems I was having with using visual aids, and feeling embarrassed etc.  She said… If I had difficulty walking, I would use a walking stick or a wheelchair.  If I couldn’t hear , I would wear a hearing aid and wouldn’t think twice about it, so, why if I cant see, would this be any different.  And, you know what, she was absolutely right.  So, if I need a white cane to help me “see” then  why would I choose not to use it?

With regards to other people laughing at me, making comments or being generally abusive towards me when using a white cane – this again is no different to people making comments or being abusive in any other situation. There are Good and there are Bad people in all walks of life, and if the person is a bad person, they would remark no matter what, white cane or not.

I cant simply go out there with my white cane and face the World, without training to use it properly.  Without the training, I will be a danger to myself and possibly others too.   So, over the course of the next few weeks/months I will be trained in the correct ways to do things whilst using a white cane.  The rehabilitation officer will go out walking with me, and on. buses and trains, to cafes etc, to get me used to it and comfortable with it, as well as being confident with it. I am looking forward to having the confidence to be out independently once again, but know this will not be plain sailing, and not without hurdles to overcome.

As I type this post, I do not feel confident with the cane, nor do I feel excited at the prospect of using it – BUT, the reasons for this are:

My own embarrassment, people thinking I am being a fraud  people making fun of me and looking stupid.

However, the idea of it giving me back a lot of my independance,  giving me some freedom of movement and having the confidence to go out again is very exciting.

In conclusion,

I think I need to gain acceptance of being visually impaired myself first, then learn to be confident in telling people, and using all of the aids available to me (Of which there are many) and loosing the fear of “what if” and what will people say or think.

My sight loss is a part of me now, BUT, it doesn’t singularly define who or what I am.

I will fill you in on my progress and thoughts over the next few months on this topic, as I am sure they will change – frequently!


12 Replies to “The White Cane”

  1. Wow that’s a huge step for you xx I’m so proud of you xx I wonder if you could train one of your IWH to be a sight dog ? I bet they would pick the skills up fast xx and in a very light note – we can pimp your white cane for you darling !! Xxxx

    1. Thank you Kay. Its a gigantic step. I’m totally not sure if I will be able to summon up the courage to use the cane fully, but, I am going to give it my best shot. I think the acid test will be after I have been taken out with my rehabilitation officer with it and then take the first step out of the house on my own with it. I will be able to cope with peoples reactions when with the Rehab guy – but, different story all on my own – hopefully people will be so much nicer than what I am imagining in my mind 🙂

      I like the Irish Wolfhound training bit – Im already thinking I could hook a sled up to them in the winter to pull em along 🙂

      Haha – loving the pimping the cane too 🙂

      Thanks for commenting, it is very much appreciated
      x x x

  2. Wishing you all the best for the
    Coming months. I am sure you will overcome any obstacles slowly but surely. The more confident you become you’ll worry less of what other people think. Xxx

    1. Thank you Catherine. I hope you are right. I could say to myself, to hell with what other people think …… but, in reality, I do care what others think. But, if the cane makes me feel safer and confident, as you say, the worries about other peoples thoughts will hopefully diminish x x Love to you

  3. Wow Terry It really makes you appreciate what visually impaired folk go through not just physically but mentally too. I can’t imagine the fears you are feeling right now

    Love you Terry x

    1. Bless you Jane. Thanks for taking the time to pop by 🙂
      You know what, I am finding more and more out about myself and those around me as a result of all this, and in doing so I have good days and bad days. The one thing that is encouraging though, constantly is people like you showing the support and the understanding that you do…It means. HUGE deal to me…so..Thank you very much. Its strange what life throws at you isn’t it, but, we find ways to deal with things, and I guess this is no different. Thank you for being there my lovely x x

  4. Your research Terry is thorough and perhaps too good for your own good at the moment, must be the Boy Scout in you.
    I always enjoyed being a colleague of yours and working with you in the Lodge. We have been friends for a long time and will remain so, I am a friend for life, well what’s left of mine. I am sure you will overcome if you need to. Very best wishes.

    1. Hey Ray… Your post is here 🙂 so, you’re more tech savvy than you thought haha. I think the constant research I am doing helps me to understand whats going on, and also what lies ahead. Indeed the Boy Scout motto rules and being prepared for anything haha. I am scared Ray, thats the truth, but we need to deal with what life presents us with don’t we? So, I am trying to see the sight loss as any other type of loss. We grieve for what was there and no longer is. Its like a berveavement – we loose a loved one, and we grieve. We never stop missing that person, but we slowly begin to continue with life and over time, although the loss is always there, it gets easier to deal with.
      I remember our days in the lodge well my friend. You were and still are an inspiration, you taught me a great deal and I look upon to you now, as I did in those days. Thanks for your comments Ray..they mean a great deal

  5. Terry, wow… just wow, I can’t believe the courage that you are showing going into this. So open and honest. Like anything it’s always different to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, and know how we would handle things but I can only say if I needed something (white stick) or if something made my lifestyle slightly easier.. I would use it.

    1. Hi Mav
      Thank you for that. I don’t feel particularly courageous at times and I have lots and lots of wobbles about it all, but, I am trying so hard to get to grips with it. Sometimes I feel like quitting, and just want the World to stop, but then at other times, there is still so much (hopefully) life left and so many people I care for, and care for me to enjoy life with. So, I just need to learn how to enjoy life, just in a slightly different way :-). You are right, if things make life that little bit easier, then we should accept whatever it is and carry on.. Hopefully, I will come to accept the cane as a help and grab back from life the zest and love of life I had before all of this.
      Its so great to hear people saying that if they needed something that helped them get by, they would grab it and use it – thats what I need and intend to do

  6. Ahoy there shipmate !
    None of us want to be reminded of the things we can no longer do as I dicovered last week on our boat when I was unable to get on and off it without help . The main thing is that there is plenty of help around and friends are amazing and very understanding .
    The reality is whilst we feel foolish and anxious about how we appear to others they see our best qualities and don’t judge who we are by what we can and cannot do .
    Your strength of personality accompanied by your sense of humour will be a huge asset to you on this journey .
    Do not forget the love that surrounds you .

    1. Hi Gwenda.
      I agree totally with you, there is indeed lots of help out there, and for once in my life, I am actually accepting the help that is offered – something I rarely used to do, as I always thought I could cope with anything that was thrown at me.

      I have of late being pleasantly surprised how some friends have reacted to my news. I thought they would be either full or ridicule or pity – or even worse… both of those things. I have been met with thoughtful concern and empathy, and many offers of assistance from my family and friends. Yes, there are the odd funny comments made, which sometimes I find hurtful, but, I dont think they are meant in that way at all, and in the majority of cases, I manage to laugh it off myself, or even crack jokes about it before anyone else does 🙂
      I hadn’t thought about ” The reality is whilst we feel foolish and anxious about how we appear to others they see our best qualities and don’t judge who we are by what we can and cannot do”.
      You are spot on there.
      My strength of personality and sense of humour is being tested to the limit at the moment – but, I’m sure I will get there fully in time.

      Thank you for those wise words my lovely friend – they mean a great deal x

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