Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Customize Your Cane

I am one of those low vision people who didn't really need to use a white cane. If I bent over and stared at the ground three feet in front of me, I would only occasionally trip over a miscalculated step. I would bump into people, but that was just because I wasn't paying attention.
To quote my teenage son--"NOT!"
Now I would feel naked if I left the house without my cane. I will admit that my change of attitude was not an easy process for me. It took a few years and a lot of soul searching to reach this point. I can thank the writers who wrote the many wonderful articles on cane travel that appeared in the Braille Monitor over the years for their perspective and encouragement.
The simple fact of the matter is that, by not using a cane, the only person I was fooling was myself. It is the old story that everyone knows you are blind but you. I know the final realization for me was that I would rather walk tall as a competent blind person than walk down the street bent over trying to see where I was going--and not giving a very good impression.
How much easier travel is now! My problem wasn't my vision . . . it was my attitude.
This attitude was even conveyed to my son. When I first started using my cane, I was self-conscious, and my son said, "Mom, put that thing away, everyone is looking at you." As my attitude changed, so did his. He later said to me, "Hey, Mom, everyone is looking at you because you are doing such a good job." Out of the mouths of babes!
When I talk to kids about using a cane, they always say that people will notice them. My answer is, "Sure, people will notice, people notice everything: whether you are thin or fat, short or tall, or if you have red hair. Some people are even dying their hair green to become more noticeable! So what if they notice you use a cane. You don't have to hide your cane, it is a symbol of your independence."
A car owner will wax and wash his car. It is his symbol of freedom and independence. He feels he can't travel without it. So I take care of my canes for the same reason. I have never been known to leave well enough alone, so I have customized my canes.
I have an NFB telescoping cane. But let's face it, it is plain white, so why not spruce it up with a fancy handle. I have found a variety of grips that I add to my canes. My favorite grip is a steering wheel cover. They are available in a variety of styles and colors and can be found in most discount stores.
Other grips you might like to use are golf grips and tennis racket grips. (That's as close to a steering wheel and tennis racket I'm going to get!) They look great and they are practical as a non-slip grip when you are wearing gloves.
So you can have a sporty cane or a fancy cane or an elegant cane. You can pick the style you want to match the occasion. You can now buy reflective tape in most discount or hardware stores (similar to ScotchLite but easier to apply). You can't tape the telescoping canes, but I put some reflective tape on my rigid cane for at night. I feel more comfortable knowing I am a little more visible at night.
I also use the California Cane. This cane is the best cane I have found. It is lightweight and, when the joints slide together, it has the feel of a rigid cane. Unlike many other folding canes, this cane comes apart easily and you don't have to fight with it to get the joints separated.
When it snows I use a rigid cane. I added a red reflective tip to my "snow cane" because I have heard that it is very hard for people to see a white cane in the snow. If it is snowing hard, I will increase my visibility by wearing an orange hunter's hat.
You can add some variety to your cane collection. I have a cane with wood grain Contact Paper on it for walking in the woods. I am a radio operator in the Civil Air Patrol and I have an all black AmbuTech folding cane to meet the uniform requirements (all accessories must be black). I also have a Camouflage cane.
If you aren't using a white cane, it does not qualify under the law, but many states have a broad definition to extend to all mobility canes. Check with the white cane laws in your state.
When I first started using my cane I would carry it in an umbrella case so no one would see it. Now I have a cane for all occasions and a few spares.
It's all in your attitude, so have fun!

Customizing Your Canes by Jody W. Ianuzzi was previously printed in the TravelVision website by Kathy Zelaya and is reprinted here by special permission from the author.

Bonus Tip

Just wanted to share a solution that we came up with to address the problem of people who have difficulty pulling the elastic loop at the end of the folding cane over the folded shaft sections, could be useful for people with arthritis, who lack fine motor (hand) coordination, lack strength in their arm/hand.
I bought a product at Staples called "VELCRO® brand One-Wrap" (a pack of 5 sold for about $6).
  1. Put the "VELCRO® brand One-Wrap" strip through the elastic loop, thread it through the hole at the top of the "VELCRO® brand One-Wrap", and keep it permanently attached to the elastic loop of the cane (it does not interfere with cane usage).
  2. After you fold the cane, grab the shaft sections in one hand like you always do, but closer toward the side that you would normally pull the elastic loop over.
  3. Hold the "VELCRO® brand One-Wrap" in the other hand, and bring it right above your hand holding the shaft.
  4. Wrap the material around the shaft.
This holds the cane together nicely without the need to pull the elastic loop over the top. For people who have difficulty grabbing the VELCRO® brand strip, you can easily attach a plastic ring to the end of the VELCRO® brand strip and just grab for the ring to pull the cord around the shaft.

Steve Greenberg

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