The first time I learned to walk with a cane I had to do so blind folded because I still had sight. My Mobility instructor explained that it was necessary so that I would learn to trust myself. I was leery but I did what I was told.
She was a very nice and capable instructor named JoAnne from the Washington State department of Services for the Blind (DSB). This is an amazing organization for blind and visually impaired adults to get acquainted with resources and assistance in learning skills to help with every day living. Most have a similar organization so do a quick internet search to find one in your area.
Before I get started with my first experience with cane travel I should probably mention that I lived in a neighborhood at the time that had absolutely no sidewalks. This definitely made the task a more cumbersome and intimidating adventure but an adventure none the less.
I picked up the basics fairly quickly and was feeling pretty good about myself. Even though I wanted to peak under the blind fold but I never did. JoAnne made it perfectly clear that if I got into a bind she was going to refrain from helping me unless I was about to do harm to myself or someone else.
It had been smooth sailing for the most part though so I really wasn’t too worried. After all, how hard could walking around the block in my own childhood neighborhood really be? The answer to that question… apparently very hard…
So I’m walking along talking back and forth with JoAnne thinking I’ve got the whole blind thing pretty locked. I didn’t even notice that JoAnne’s voice was getting further and further away from me. In fact, I didn’t notice there was even a problem until my cane hit something metal.
I instantly started to panic. I was walking on a road that was a straight shot with no metal anywhere on the road. There was absolutely no reason for me to have hit something like that. I stepped forward to examine the obstacle with my hand.
With in a second I realized I was touching what had to be a garage door. During this time JoAnne still hadn’t said a word. Completely lost and totally confused I turned around and her for some help.
She asked me where I thought I was. I of course said that I was in front of a garage. She then asked me I noticed about the way my voice sounded. I started to tell her I didn’t know what she meant when I noticed that my voice was echoing.
As I came to this conclusion she walked to me and slipped off the blind fold so I could see the pickle I had worked myself in. I had managed to veer off like a wobbly shopping cart into someone’s driveway. I narrowly missed hitting their parked car and went into their car port, which is of course why my voice had been echoing.
To make matters worse the owner of the home was standing in a pathway next to the driveway where I was standing holding a bag of garbage. He had clearly witnessed the entire debacle.
I later found out that when JoAnne noticed what I was doing and she saw the man she held a finger to her lips. He being a good sport played along while a complete blind folded stranger wandered onto his property. I was positively mortified. I was mad at myself for not being able to walk a straight line successfully. JoAnne didn’t let me stay down for long though, she assured me it was normal in the beginning and I would get better. The best course of action now would be to teach me how to get myself out of the predicament without losing my directional course.
Now ten years later I know though to pick up on audible clues to help me understand my surroundings more clearly. I know that it’s okay to feel confident and engage in conversation while walking but its imperative that I still pay close attention to what I am doing. I will never forget JoAnne and the things she taught me and appreciate every minute she took to make sure I learned to be a safe traveler.
If you are learning how to use a cane don’t give up. It can be overwhelming and at times even a little scary but it’s worth it in the end I promise. It will give you independence and after a while you will start to feel naked without it. Just be patient and learn to laugh when you make mistakes because it’s normal and not the end of the world.
If you have any funny, embarrassing or informative stories to share on the subject please feel free to leave them in the comment section under this post. If you just have too much to say contact me and we can work out the possibility of you doing a guest post for this blog.
Thanks for reading and remember… When life’s got you down keep you head up, you can’t see the ground anyway.