“I knew I had to stop feeling embarrassed, ashamed and insecure about having a visual impairment and start putting my safety first!”
I was first introduced to a symbol cane, which is small and thin in size. Its primary function is to let others know that you have a visual impairment and you’re supposed to hold it vertically in front of your body. It provided me with safety going out in public as people took care to avoid bumping into me. I would use my symbol cane whilst being guided by my husband.
As my vision deteriorated, going out on my own meant the symbol cane wasn’t enough. I contemplated whether I could take such a big step by switching to a white cane, which is bigger and longer with a rollerball at the end, and actually use it rather than just hold it which meant everyone could see that I am blind. I wouldn’t be able to deny or hide my visual impairment or pretend that I wasn’t anymore.
I must say that using a white cane made me feel quite vulnerable and somewhat a fraud. I mean, I felt I didn’t ‘look blind’, and I was fairly young when I started using it and didn’t know anyone else my age using a cane. However, when I began to use my white cane more I became comfortable using stairs and escalators. Furthermore, I discovered that I was able to avoid bumping into bollards, lamp posts, public dustbins, parked cars and any other obstacles, and because of this my confidence grew, which lead to me feeling empowered as I became more independent. In addition, people became aware and offered help and support. Also, I’ve learned that bus drivers are required to stop when they see a person with a white cane at the bus stop, which is one of other benefits of using a white cane.
If you’d like a white cane then contact your local Sensory Team as they should be able to provide you with one which has been measured to suit you. Training is also given on how to correctly hold and use the cane whilst taking care of your posture.
The main advantage of using a white cane is personal safety. A white cane detects textured surfaces allowing you to distinguish between a pavement and a crossing point. Most crossing points have a tactile bumpy surface to indicate when a crossing is approaching. At train stations, your white cane will detect the bumpy lines when you approach stairs and platform edges.
After finding myself in various difficult and dangerous situations in the past, I decided it was time to put my safety first and for my precious daughters too. I was ashamed and embarrassed of what others would think of me, but I cannot tell you how much I love my white cane now. It has given me the confidence and independence I need to enable me to go out without feeling scared or anxious, allowing me to feel free and in control. I’ve even taken my cane on holiday!
Using the combination of both my cane and assistance from transport providers like National Rail and TFL, I can now get around independently with ease.
Written by Bhavini Makwana