Thursday October 15 is White Cane Day. President Lyndon Johnson made October 15 cane day, in recognition of the blind and safety. How cool is that? I feel like I should buy my cane a present…instead, I thought I’d write about them, since there are stories of 2 canes in my life.
My first cane was bought for me by my best friend, this time last year. I can’t be certain of the month, but I know it was in or before November. After I went blind, I heard about Saavi – Southern Arizona Association for the Visually Impaired. Friends kept urging me to call, but I wasn’t ready. My grandma’s old exterminator had gone on to learn to be an orientation and mobility instructor in Texas, and he still kept in touch with her. When he found out about me, he gave grandma the number and contact name of a woman at Saavi. She told me she would give it to me when I was ready.
So when my friend bought me that cane, and brought it over, I was intrigued. It was a 5 fold, and she showed me how to unfold and refold. It had a pointed tip on the end. We talked about going to the park and playing with it. I played with it in the house, but didn’t really know what to do with it. I had seen movies where people tapped sticks back and forth, and that was the extent of my knowledge.
Upon finding out what she had done, several people told her she should send it back. I hadn’t gotten it yet; she ordered it online. I thought it was a wonderful gesture, but people told her she should send it back, that I needed proper training with it, it might not be the right size, etc. She called me in tears and asked if she should send it back. I told her no way. I told her even if it was the wrong size, it was the first cane, and it was from her. I wanted it.
The day after it arrived, I called Saavi. And that is how my journey began, how I came to start my “blind training”.
I kept saying “my cane, my cane”, and it was during the 2008 presidential elections. John McCain was running, and everytime I said “my cane”, it sounded like “McCain”. Sarah Palen was always calling McCain a “maverick”, so the cane was named Maverick hehe.
I began preliminary O & M lessons with Dave. He came over, looked at the cane and it was the right size. He recommended a roller ball for the end. It was a ball about the size of a cue ball that affixed to the end of the cane, for constant contact with the ground. I happily agreed, wanting the best possible. Dave had also brought a cane from Saavi, in case Maverick didn’t work. He told me to keep it as a spare, and I stuck it under the cabinet.
I used Maverick for wow, like, 6 or 7 months. I loved it! the only thing was that it was really hard to unfold after a lot of use. The joints would stick and I had a hard time undoing it to fold. I would lubricate the joints with chapstick, and it helped a little.
A few months ago, my friend Stephan at Saavi started his O & M and one day I ran into him and his O & M instructor. He said something about how Stephan had gotten the self lubricating cane and I thought, huh? I asked if I could see it, and the joints came apart so easy! I said I wanted one of those, and the instructor said its all they use. I realized that cane I had stuck under the cabinet was probably one of these.
So I told Dave I wanted to try that one, and I was also envious of Stephans tip. He had a mushroom tip on his cane that was much smaller than my roller ball, which made a lot of noise. Dave brought over a smaller roller ball and we put it on the other cane and went for a lesson. I loved it! The cane is lighter and I am able to pick up more through it. I really liked the smaller ball, because it was quieter. It also picks up more. The big roller balls are good for beginners, or heavy terrain like hiking, because they roll over more than the small balls, and the pencil tip gets jabbed into cracks and such.
So I retired Maverick and broke the news to my friend. She said it had fulfilled its mission, because it got me to start getting help, and she’s absolutely correct. Maverick now lives under the cabinet, and it has the smaller ball on it, so its my backup. My current cane is Mav 2. Though I usually just say, my cane.
Words cannot express how using Maverick started my soul healing. I could “see” again. When walking in my complex, I heard echos from the cane if I tapped it, and I could tell where buildings were. I felt shorelines and “saw” the sidewalk.
Maverick opened my eyes again. Its only been recently that I’ve really stepped up the training with Mav 2, in preparation for a guide dog. Before that, I would use the cane primarily to get arond Saavi without help, and a few times out with friends. Now I’m definitely doing more with it, and relying on it a lot more.
When I’m doing human guide, I hold the cane for identification purposes, to alert the sighties that a blind woman is coming 😉 It works like a charm. For the most part, the waters part and my friends and I are able to move with ease. It also helps alert me to curbs and steps, even though friends alert me, I like having my cane there to help with that stuff. Dave loves it on our lessons when he watches cars all but stop and give us a wide birth hehe!
Anyway, I just wanted to talk about my canes. With all the talk of guide dogs, I have neglected my first best friend here. And every blind person must have top notch cane skills before getting a dog, so my cane deserves recognition.
Oh, I read another blog and he sometimes gives tips to the sighted, and I like that. So one of my tips regarding the cane. Never ever grab the cane. Its happened to me a few times, and I hate it. Its like grabbing the steering wheel of someone’s car when you’re not the one driving. Big no no 🙂