Hey, it’s white cane awareness month…you know, the cane used by blind individuals like me. Have you ever thought if you’d prefer a cane or a guide dog?
Today, I thought I’d at least share why I chose to use a cane over a guide dog, and how I came to that decision.
A special program, including mobility training, was offered by the Kansas Rehabilitation Center for the Blind for visually impaired or blind individuals desiring to attend college. I attended this one year after being diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, and after completing my sophomore year in college. Exposed to the cane’s use, I adopted techniques learned when walking to night classes. Other than that, I walked normal. That is, if you call walking with your head down to avoid missing low-lying objects or bumping into doors and people normal.
For the rest of college, I only used my cane at night when venturing out with friends. This was because night blindness is a major symptom of RP. Then, living on my own, I encountered daytime battles when running errands. One day while shopping, a woman whizzing by almost knocked my elbow off, spun around, and , yelled at me as if I was the perpetrator. If we were in cars, I would’ve called it road rage. My friend calmly suggested I carry my cane to ward off such predators, even though I didn’t want to use it for travel.
“Good idea,” I responded. Self-inflicted bruising is one thing, but prevention sounded much better than abuse. So, that’s exactly what I did…my cane became a sign to others.
Having no major catastrophes going to and fro, made it easy to overlook the wind getting knocked out of me from unsuspecting curbs and pot holes. Pride comes before a fall, right? Eventually, I caved in, When landing in new surroundings, and used my cane to investigate. If with others, I gladly grabbed their right elbow with my left hand. However, call it insecurity, but I still gripped my cane in my right hand. I just loved that extra protection on my right side, in case my friend didn’t judge space very well, or just wasn’t that skilled.
Becoming a wife and mother in my thirties, I wanted to take care of my family – not them take care of me. It was time to choose which was best…cane or guide dog. Truthfully, both work better in cities over small towns. I live in a small town where public transportation is a foreign concept, few curbs exist, and sidewalks resemble mountainous terrain made out of concrete. It’s almost impossible to use either one correctly.
So, here were my considerations. A cane is cheaper. You don’t have to take it for a walk. Oops, yes, you do. Okay, you don’t have to feed a cane, give it shots, exercise it, and you don’t get attached emotionally. Using either one, I’d still have to have someone take me shopping or to appointments. Most people prefer a dog not tagging along…not to mention, canes can’t give you fleas.
With all this being said, the clincher was (1) my husband was allergic to dogs, and (2) guide dog training meant being away from family for 30 days without contact. I had a baby and two teens. Even if I could make arrangements to leave my family that long, I couldn’t concentrate without seeing them every night, or on weekends. They claim this helps the dog and the blind person bond better, but I just couldn’t do it. Maybe if circumstances had been different. Right now, I’m content with my cane and my sighted guides.
*protects me from harm
*gives me clues as to what is around me
*gets me to where I want to go, but doesn’t find what I’m shopping for. (smiley face)
*encourages others to get out of my way, although many on comers are blinder than myself.
*makes going up and down stairs a breeze
*isn’t needed at home or familiar places
In all seriousness, where you live, what level of independence you desire, your support and health, and your age are all considerations if you or a loved one are facing this decision. Vision Aware is a great resource to learn more on this and other topics. They even offer starter kits for the blind and visually impaired.
Just for FUN, which would you choose, and why. Tell us in the comments below. I’m looking forward to reading them, even though I am still struggling with the inability to reply on my blog. Thanks for your patience and loyalty.
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