I hope you’re all well.
I’m sorry for the lack of posts at the moment but third year of university is the reason for that!
Just a quick note, today’s post is very long so grab a drink and a snack, sit down and enjoy!
I know that not all of you will be able to relate to this post but I know many of you like to hear my experiences of living with sight loss and this post is one of those where I discuss my experiences and also give some advice.
I hope you enjoy today’s post!
Embracing the cane is something that many blind and visually impaired people struggle with, others not so much. I was one of those that struggled with it for a few years; but now I’m completely comfortable using one. Looking back, I’m glad I did have that doubt, apprehension and anxiety when using one because it’s contributed to my thoughts and feelings when using a cane today. I can also empathise with others that don’t feel so comfortable using a cane.
I’m at a point in my life where I’m comfortable using a cane and I can openly discuss this topic. Today I want to tell you my cane story and how I learned to embrace it, seeing it as something positive rather than something negative. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a reminder that the glass is half full, not half empty.
I first had cane training (mobility training as it’s formally called) when I was at school. The training is done by a professional, called a rehabilitation worker. The rehabilitation worker taught me some cane techniques and in the following sessions we proceeded to do routes around my school, to my classrooms and such places. Let’s just say, I absolutely hated the training. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy learning to use the cane, because that’s not true, I love learning but there was something about it that filled me with dread and a hatred towards this white cane. I don’t know fully what it was but I think there were a couple of contributing factors: the fact that I was using it for the first time around my school, the place where I knew a lot of people and they’d see me with this thing and probably wonder what the hell I was doing? The second being the negative thoughts that I was having, what would people think of me using a cane, was I standing out even more so than before, what if I bumped into them? Having mobility training isn’t something your average teenager does, unless they have a visual impairment. When you’re in your teens, you want to fit in, make friends, socialise with others…you get my drift. How the hell was I going to do that when I was lumbered with this thing? I also didn’t find the lessons fun, I’m quite a motivated person so I’d have preferred to get out and about rather than being in the same environment. Obviously, I needed to learn the routes round my school, but I would have liked a variety of routes, have a change of scenery, rather than just the same building constantly. I got to grips with using the cane and things improved slowly.
Later on, I was then taught how to cross roads safely and independently. One of the major downfalls of this though was that I only learned the route between my home and my school so I didn’t really enjoy it. There wasn’t any option for me to learn other routes and do things that I wanted to do. I was proud of myself for achieving this goal and getting that far but I still wasn’t fully happy within myself using a cane. I didn’t use the cane around school and when I went out I didn’t use it as much as I should have, when you don’t like something it’s hard to motivate yourself to do it.
When I entered sixth form, I gradually became more confident and comfortable using a cane. I started to realise that it was my way of being independent; rather than relying on others. Granted, I wasn’t 100 % comfortable with the whole concept, but I was getting there.
When I entered my second and final year of sixth form I started applying for university, just like everyone else. When I was doing this, I knew that I wasn’t fully confident using a cane and knew that I needed to get myself into gear and needed to do something about it. I spoke to my parents about it, we spoke long and hard and did our research into different options and this is when I enquired about going to a specialist school for a short period of time. One of them got back to me and it was agreed that I would spend a week there in summer. During this week I had intense training on independent living skills and mobility training. Let me tell you, I learned more mobility skills during that week than I had ever done previously. I’m not saying that this is the right option for everyone because it was something that I enquired about myself rather than a professional advising me to do something like that, but it was definitely a great experience for me. It really gave me the confidence boost that I needed. After attending mainstream school all the way through education, spending a week at a specialist school was rather interesting for me. I feel like that really set me up for starting university that upcoming September.
A few weeks before I started university I had mobility training around campus so that I knew where everything was, in order for me to be able to navigate to my lecture rooms and for me to have a good idea of the campus. I think this was really the turning point for me in terms of my mobility; I was far more confident using a cane and I genuinely felt comfortable using one; I wasn’t as bothered what people thought as it was my mobility aid and my way of getting around. The rehabilitation worker was genuinely lovely and made it enjoyable which took away any anxiety that I had previously. I think it also helped being surrounded by people that weren’t that bothered about my disability, they cared but it didn’t faze them as it did others in school. There’s people from all walks of life at university and others that have the same or similar disabilities so you’re not usually the only one in your institution.
Looking back, I think university was definitely the turning point for me. I found independence and I think that’s one of the most important skills for blind and visually impaired people to have. Since becoming comfortable using a cane I’ve been on a plane on my own and continue to tackle the challenges of public transport. But without motivating myself to be independent I would not have got this far.
How I embraced the cane
So as you’ve probably gathered from my experiences above that embracing the cane didn’t come easy to me, my experiences are just one of many and every blind or visually impaired person has their own experiences. Some, like myself learn to have a love/hate relationship with a cane, but for others they may never have this.
I want to tell you how I learned to embrace the cane in the hope that it might help some of you out there.
Find a cane that’s right for you
You don’t have to just use the standard white cane, you can customise your cane. For example, you can purchase coloured canes or even get them customized with gems or whatever you fancy. Your cane is your mobility aid at the end of the day so it’s up to you! There are various opinions around whether people should just have standard white canes or customize them, but personally I think it is all about personal preference.
Do not give up
You may want to give up at first, especially if you’re finding it challenging but not giving up is key. If you give up then you won’t achieve anything so why quit? No one said that it would be easy.
Believe in yourself
This is so important. Believing in yourself is one key to happiness and independence.
Stop caring what others think and focus on yourself
This applies to many aspects of life but things become so much easier when you stop caring what others may think of you and focus on yourself. So what if you’re walking down the street with a cane or guide dog? Your disability is a part of you. Feeling comfortable within yourself is so important.
Think of the positives
Embracing the cane will provide you with independence, lifelong skills and so much more so rather than thinking about the negative aspects, look at the positives. Remember what I said before, the glass is half full, not half empty.
Look towards the future
Just think what you can achieve if you can conquer something like this.
That concludes today’s post, I hope you enjoyed reading and possibly learnt something from it.
As always, thank you for reading.