Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Cane (Written 3-15-2011)

As I mentioned here I have been having a difficult time adjusting to using a cane. Especially in public. The technique and rhythm itself was tricky pick up. My third day here my mobility instructor gave me a new cane. This cane was lighter, longer, and designed easily manipulate with a flick of your fingers and wrist. All of sudden, it began to come together. I was amazed at how much easier and natural my movements began to feel. 

I was sold. This was the cane for me. The only down side was it wasn't telescopic or any way collapsible so that it could be easily stowed a purse or diaper bag when not in use. Or when I might want to hide it. There is no hiding this new cane. It's five feet long, white, and completely rigid. This makes it difficult to store and often I forget it's beneath my feet until I am reminded quickly as I trip it.

Regardless of which cane I prefer, I am getting used to the idea of carrying one. Monday through Friday, I carry my cane everywhere; using it properly, even outside the comfort of the Center. In my Orientation and Mobility (O&M) class we frequently go on outings to various points of interest in downtown Kalamazoo. I am no longer the least bit self-conscious during these trips.  At first I believed this was because using it was part of the class and I was with others who also use a cane.

I've still been very reluctant to use my cane when I've gone home on the weekends. In most situations in my everyday life I don't need a cane to get around. I am in familiar territory and very rarely find myself out and about without a friend or family member. 

There is also my stubborn belief that my vision remains effective enough to safely navigate the majority of situations I may find myself in. After all, my vision was significantly worse at the end of last summer and I managed okay. But using a cane is more than just getting by. My O&M instructor said something to this effect during our first class together. She explained that
Relying on the cane would better enable me to enjoy my surroundings, hold conversations easier, and ultimately increase the confidence I felt (and demonstrated) while walking.  Plus, it is an identifier to people that I don't see clearly.  Until she said this I wasn't even aware at how tentative I felt or how often I watched my feet and the ground. This unreliable technique has become a way to keep track of objects that might impede my path. 

Quickly after this realization I found myself identifying situations where using the cane would assist me feels very natural and for the first time since I've lost my vision I feel as if I am actually taking in my surroundings. Because Kalamazoo is such a blind friendly town I feel secure and confident while navigating unfamiliar streets. The majority of people I've encountered here, don’t notice the cane, don't care, or are very willing to assist in any way possible.  

I've been bringing both canes home with me over the weekend and carrying the fordable one around in my purse. I know it's there if I need it and I am pretty sure that when I do I'll use it. 

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