“Walk This Way” By Shawn Salamone The Cheviot Gazette

You know those white reflective canes that visually impaired people

use to get around safely? I have to use it daily or else I get hit by

a vehicle for the sixth time. When we use it, we got to Walk this way,

a cane waltz. Too many folks ask me how I do it: walk the walk and do

what I do or “see” things the way I do with my visual impairment.

Even with my cane I walk into poles and people. Most of them call me

foul names because of how I apologize for walking into them, or they

just try to fight me. I don't mind being called names due to freedom

of speech. The things people have said to me because of my

disabilities? It’s outrageous. I cannot help that I am deaf or blind,

I don't mean to walk into people. My condition is genetic, so for them

to say that to me without really UNDERSTANDING the situation and

saying mean things, it hurts. It made me feel more disabled. I was too

scared to even move in case I walked into another person.

The thing that kills me is when someone has no idea what this special

cane is. Not only is it my eyeballs sliding all over the ground, it is

a universal signal to others that the user is visually impaired. We

use these amazing tools as if it is a part of us.

There are many different types of canes for visually impaired folks

like me. Some come in different lengths and different materials such

as aluminum, steel, carbon fiber, and graphite.  In most cases, these

bad boys usually come in reflective white with a red reflective tape

at the bottom of the cane to indicate visual impairment. Deaf-blind

folks like me have two red strips of tape on the canes. The tips of

the canes are offered in different styles designed for different

terrains and surroundings to ensure the right sensitivity and mobility

for the user wherever they roam. These tips can be a plain tip, to a

marshmallow tip, rolling marshmallow tip(hmmm s’mores!) or a ball tip.

Most are collapsible, however telescopic canes are not usually

recommended since they lose grip and collapse.

Deaf Blind Mobility Cane, Two red reflectors.

How do we do it? Walk around with this cane and not trip over

ourselves? Have you ever tried to blindfold yourself or simply close

your eyes, grabbed a cane and try to feel your way around? Try it and

see if you can identify what terrain you’re poking with your

“eyeballs”. On the ground, a lot of it is simple geometry and physics.

Certain materials used to produce these cause different rigidity and

sensitivity. I prefer the graphite, I can tell you whether it’s

blacktop or poured concrete, wood floors, laminate, ceramic tiles or

carpet by the feel of the cane.

While walking and swinging the cane around yelling Marco Polo, (I am

too deaf to play) there is a particular way to walk with it. Of course

Aerosmith’s “Walk this Way” always comes to mind! It’s like a cane

Waltz, between your two legs as one steps out, swing the cane to the

side the one leg is in the rear. As you walk stepping forward, slide

the cane to the other leg going to the rear. This helps to prevent

tripping but giving you the range to sweep what is in front of you.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have little vision left, I don’t use one

at home since I know my home. I also have my guide dog whom I cherish

immensely. If I have to face the world solo, he is my partner in crime

out there keeping me safe and orientated. Usually when I go with

someone else, my guide dog gets a lazy day and I grab my can , which I

call my eyeballs. Just don’t step on them when you see us out there

walking the walk, sweeping through, playing Marco Polo.

In all seriousness, have you ever tried to use a cane yourself? To

turn off some senses and enhance others? To adapt? If not, try it.

Expand your horizon. Close your eyes, touch and feel things you can’t

see. There are many aspects and details you may have never noticed.

Perhaps you just might understand us more, which will help you

appreciate what you can do.

We live in a world where people take their abilities for granted. The

ability to hear a bird chirp, an airplane fly by, a child's laughter,

to see the beautiful colors of flowers, shapes, someone's smile, an

animal or even the stars. Because of those who take all this for

granted, I am thankful for my blindness and deafness, the best gift I

could ever ask for. I will never accept a permanent cure, only if I

can turn it on and off to truly cherish the beauty of life. It's the

only way I know I am really ALIVE. Some people say the way I feel is

"stupid" or a genetic defect, if only they could understand and

cherish how lucky they are. Please cherish the things you can do,

hear, see or even know how blessed you truly are to experience the

beauty of life.

“Cotton Candy Sky” Photo captured by the blind author of this article.

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Cheviot Rd, Cincinnati, OH, USA



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