Don’t fear the cane! Especially on October 15th, White Cane Day!
When Tom was a baby and I was wrapping my mind about blindness, I remember thinking, “Please don’t let him have to use braille or a cane. Give him some sight!” What I was really worried about was him being different. Tom’s eyes are so damaged that any bit of sight he might have gained from the surgeries wouldn’t have enabled him to function visually. It may have helped some, but he wouldn’t have been a print reader and he would still have needed a cane for orientation.
I have come a long way in my understanding and appreciation of blindness skills. Braille and long white canes are tools for independence. People treat Tommy differently when they see him use his cane. They are impressed. He is not passively being led along, he is active and in control.
We got a free cane for Tommy from the NFB’s Free cane program when he was around a year and a half old. I began requesting orientation and mobility for Tommy from his Early Intervention provider and I initially got some push back. But Tom was really progressing in his walking and he was constantly hitting his head and becoming frustrated. It was time to call in the professionals.
Tommy began working with Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) who was also certified in orientation and mobility around his second birthday. It’s funny because these TVIs don’t often get to use their cane teaching skills when they work in early intervention. There really aren’t that many blind kids! But Tommy and his new teacher found their groove and we had two session a week: one session of pre-braille skills at home and one session at the mall for cane training. (Yes, you can request more than one visit a week! It never hurts to ask.)
We trained in side hallways and all around the mall itself and people often shouted encouragement to Tommy. As a shy person, initially it was hard to get used to the stares of the public, but people were kind and interested, which made it easier. And I have to admit that it is damn cute to see a little guy with a cane!
I love Joe Cutter’s video, “Little White Canes.” Watch it!
So don’t fear the cane! Learn about it and respect it. There is nothing like seeing your visually impaired/blind child walk with confidence.