Transform That White Stick Into Your Wand of Power

Roadsign with white cane
Roadsign with white cane. Harry Williamson/Spring Studio

People have seen the iconic image of a white person on a black background holding a long white cane and recognize it as the international symbol used to identify those who are blind or have low vision.

What they may not know, however, is  just how hard it can be emotionally to identify yourself as that blind person.

For the majority of people newly diagnosed with an incurable eye condition or who are suffering from a recent accident leaving them vision-impaired, picking up that little white stick can be a frightening reality.

What can happen is that, as soon as a person takes hold of a white cane, society sets them apart and labels them as being part of a minority group, newly defined by their physical disability. This stigma can impact not only on that person but also on their family.

The truth is that there are varying degrees of blindness. Being legally blind means that a person may still retain some useful vision: only a small percentage of people are totally blind.

This is why for some, accepting the long white cane as their mobility aid feels as if it is yelling to the world, “Look out. Blind person on the loose,” when actually, they are not blind but a person with low vision.

Are you one of these persons with low vision? Have you noticed a loss of vision and are you  afraid to identify yourself in the fear of being judged as a ‘blind’ person by others because of this darn little white stick?

I have awesome news for you – taking hold of a white cane can become your wand of power if you know the correct way to wield it!

Practicality in Your Hands

You may be aware that a white cane used as a mobility aid:

  •   Detects obstacles & potential hazards on the ground
  • Indicates when there is a step & how deep it is, in order to be prepared when stepping up or down stairs
  • Helps to navigate over different surfaces and discern tactile markers on the ground indicating the way to kerbs, station platforms, escalators and doorways, etc.
  • Alerts drivers and people on foot to move around you carefully

Transformation Time!

When you begin to become a confident cane user, you radiate a different message. Accepting this mobility device means you have also accepted it is merely a device and not the insignia  of a character defect.

The obstacle stopping you feeling confident with the little white stick is the difference between a flower and a weed. It is judgement, your own personal pride perceiving barriers barring your path forward as well as a need to let go of caring what others think.

The moment you accept the white cane as a powerful mobility device and not a sign of deficiency, something awesome happens.

You step forward with courage and purpose: you accept the cane as a highly practical mobility aid and know how to use it to your advantage. This has a powerful effect on how others react when they see you wielding that ‘white stick’.

How to Use Your White Cane and Open Doors before You Arrive

You will feel in the spotlight in full view of the general public, so take advantage of your VIP (Visually-Impaired Person) status and experience the kindness of others.

Cultivate the right attitude and you will definitely transform your white cane into a wand of power because when others notice your cane they :

  • Assist readily and offer to open a doorway, show you to a seat, bus stop, shop counter, etc.
  • Offer to guide you through a narrow gap or lead you safely around an unexpected obstacle
  • Allow you to go first in queues in the bank, post office and in lines at the grocery store
  • Guide you on and off a plane to get you safely from the plane to the terminal while you enjoy the bonus of a friendly chat with a helpful steward (or co-pilot, as happened to me on a couple of occasions)

The list of benefits goes on when you accept the spotlight status. The more you accept the white cane as a symbol of strength and not of weakness, as a mobility aid and a powerful tool to independence, the more you  experience a transformation in your world.

In her book, Mobility Matters: Stepping out in Faith, vision-impaired author and educator Amy Bovaird understands the challenge. She writes candidly about coming to terms with the truth of losing her eyesight and how she manages to face mobility training with courage and good humor.

For all of us who learn to accept challenge as a normal part of our daily life, and choose to use that little white stick with a more realistic attitude, we take heart knowing:

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.”  (Richard Bach)

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