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.
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.