I remember the day that I was handed my very first white cane. I was in grade 8 and all I could think was ” you don’t think my huge giant sized textbooks, my magnifying glass, and computer don’t make me stick out enough. Oh wait it was the Teachers Aid that was following me around to every class that kept my blindness incognito right? ” I remember thinking there is no way I am going to use this, I mean if I tripped I just made a joke of it and went on about life, and if I was running with my friends and hanging out at night girls who are 13 and 14 hang onto each other all the time so that was easy enough.
There was a point when I was in grade 10 when I decided ok maybe I need it a little bit and did a little bit of a trial and started using it at school and it did just what I thought it would. It brought more negative attention to me, and god knows I was receiving plenty without it.
I never used my cane on a consistent basis until I was in University. I really found that when I transitioned to University I had a hard time navigating alone and with the transition from High School to University was also the transition of living with my parents on the farm to living in the city alone.
I never used my cane outside of school when I was with friends because I hated feeling like I was the odd one out and I always felt like people were staring at me. It wasn’t until I had a major change in vision that I had to use my white cane no matter what there was no other option.
I was not happy that I had to start using my cane every day all day and rely on it but it was only a few months into my significant vision loss that i realized that I had been really looking at the white cane with the wrong attitude. The white cane did not stand for disability, difference, and inequality but it stood for Independence, confidence and the key to a life that I wanted to live.
Once I opened up to looking at my cane differently my whole world opened up. I was able to travel where I wanted when I wanted, it gave me the confidence to take on new adventures and really tackle the world. I had always thought growing up that my blindness was something to be hidden to be ashamed of, yet that wasn’t the case at all. It is something to embrace, be proud of and live the life I want despite being blind.
After finally embracing my cane it felt like it opened up a whole new world, and a whole new person. I slowly became more confident, more vocal, more social, and found the person that I wanted to be which was always hidden away trying to keep this secret that no one could ever know. When really my blindness is what makes me me, it is a part of me like my eyes are green and my hair is blonde or red depending on the time in my life ha ha ha.
I wish that someone would have told me that I was holding the key to independence every time I picked up my white cane much sooner, or that I had figured it out much sooner. Now to show the world, this week is White Cane week a time to educate the world on what the White Cane is and what it stands for, do not fold up your cane and hide it in your closet walk with your head high and proud that you are able to live the life that you want because of that white cane.
Until Next Time
Ashley and Rick