Orientation and Mobility: Trust the Cane + Steps!

Well today I had yet another exciting mobility lesson with Elaine; and I do mean exciting, and nerve-racking to say the least. Today was yet another “Trust the Cane” exercise, this time at a local mall; but not to worry it was not too crowded on a Wednesday afternoon, so people were not the main issue at hand.

We entered and she instructed me to make my way to the mall center court with perfect cane technique… no problem. We stopped and discussed the finer points of using the directory to locate stores. She pointed out that our local mall directory is not that well thought out, in that they only direct you to a section where a store is located, the stores on the map itself are not individually labeled.

She instructed me to note my location, and I can sight the large store signs of the main stores, with minimal trouble. Landmarks where always a strong point for me, this is not an issue. I would rather travel by landmark then direction. We then continued and made our way to Boscov’s… Entered and I was instructed to locate the stairs and escalators. – Oh yes, we know what is coming now!

At the stairs, we reviewed cane technique and what the cane can tell you about the stairs. The treads height, depth, and width; all good things to know. Is the step high, or low? Wide or narrow? Is their carpeting or are they solid.

Transferring the cane to my left hand to hold the railing with my right. You hold the cane about mid shaft, with the thumb down arm extended out and elbow locked. Resting your cane on the second step you push outward for each step up you take so the cane “clicks” each step in front of you… When you reach the top, the cane will swing away, with no click… This is how you know you have reached the top, or a landing.

Oh but wait, we have even more fun. Because after you go up, you must come down!

This is by far one of the most nerve-racking experiences any person who is blind or can’t see well DREADS; taking a header down a flight of steps. I am no different, going up is not the problem, it’s going down!

Wilee

Again, a technique. Locate the edge and feel the cane drop. FEEL THE EDGE WITH YOUR FOOT. I missed it the first time! CRAP! – I feel like Wile Coyote on the edge of a cliff!

After locating the edge, the cane is transferred to the left hand again to hold the rail with the right. Extending the cane out and slightly down like a spear, you take your step holding the cane just above the passing steps. You walk down until you feel the cane hit, you have one more step, and you are at your landing.

Are we having fun yet?

Oh wait; yes, we are going to have LOADS of fun now! Here come them blinder glasses again. Now we do it all again. BLIND! – CRAP, CRAP, CRAP! The adrenaline level went from OK I am fine with this to WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING in one second flat.

Being extra careful, and moving extra slow. I made my way back up the steps. Turned and made my way back down slowly. And up and down about a dozen more times like this. With Elaine always by my side, if I did manage to miss a step; how ever it did not make me feel any better.

We finished this lesson on the steps, removed them damn glasses and made our way back out of the mall. What a fun day! NOT! I wonder what we will do next week?

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Orientation and Mobility: Trust the Cane

This past week I had my after holiday lesson with Elaine. I had to miss a week or this would have been sooner because I was sick, and I still am a little sick yet; but feeling much better.

This lesson was simple. Navigate around the block right out side my home. Oh, and did I mention, while wearing blinder glasses? This way it’s sure that you really CAN NOT SEE ANYTHING! Things get a little more interesting now don’t they?

White Cane ManWe made one pass up the block with out the glasses so she could see that I was walking in step with the cane. By now and all the practice I have been doing on my own this was no problem at all; she was impressed.

After we made it to the top, we crossed the street and then, with the blinding glasses on made our way down the other side. I was a little hesitant to say the least. This side of the street the sidewalks are very bad! Upturned bricks and poorly maintained, make it a challenge even for me and mom in daylight, let alone when you cannot see any thing at all.

Sweeping the cane from side to side, I suddenly became more aware of every bump and dip in front of me. The cane was providing the information I wanted. We cleared the bad part of the sidewalk with not too much trouble.

As we continue, she informs me in a few more steps we will be at the curb, and to tell her when I think I found it… Sure enough in just a few more steps, I felt the cane dip, and my foot slope down the ramp at the curb.

We made a right and walked up one of our side streets, this sidewalk was much better, and again she says tell me when you find the curb… No problem! As we stand at an alley way, she says tell me what you hear; well I did hear a car idling but she says it is parked, but that’s good, it’s what she wanted to know.

We continue on our walk, and I’m feeling a bit more comfortable and pick up pace a little bit, still with the blinding glasses on, we make our way around the whole block! Stopping at curbs, listening… As we pass houses and open lots she reminds me to listen for the differences in pitch of how sounds change from an enclosed space to an open space.

We finished our walk… I had navigated a whole city block around my house truly blind, using just my cane.

We also went over more cane use at curbs, and how to hold the cane across your body to make it more visible to people and cars; also stepping off the curb and continuing the proper arc to again stay in step.

I’m progressing well! Lets see what next week brings!

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Orientation and Mobility: Basic Cane Training

Well, I finished my first official Orientation and Mobility lesson. Simple really… Learn how to use the White Cane. Simple enough, you think? Well, yes, and no…

First off, let me remind you all again, I am NOT totally blind. I’m “Legally Blind”. I can see objects in my path and for the most part avoid them. I choose to start using the White Cane, to help me get around better in public places; places where other people may not know I have poor eyesight; like crossing a street, reading a menu, or basic crowed control.

Folding White Cane
Folding White Cane from AmbuTech

I feel like Moses parting the Red Sea some times, so the White Cane is useful, it does tend to make people move out of the way (most of the time) that is kind of cool.

In any case, my instructor Elaine took me to a local church to use their building for training. (Too damn cold outside!)… We used a long hallway to do basic skills, the first of which is to learn to walk in step with the cane…

With a little work, we got this down OK, with only a few mistakes. But you say, why, who cares? Walking in step is important… If I were totally blind I’d want the cane to have swept where my foot is goingto be  first. before I step.

The basic walking is: Right Foot – Cane Left, Left Foot – Care Right… or, the cane is always to the side of the trailing foot. Got it? good…

After this, we did door work… Again a technique… You bump the door with the cane; fine you know it is there, then what? Holding your cane as you normally would (like a golf club grip)… you rotate the wrist up and out to point the thumb down, and walk the cane flat to the door. Doing this allows you to flush the cane across the door to locate handles.

We did some other training in a large room, where she places some blinding glasses on me so I could not see any thing… She places some objects in my path, and it was my job to find them with the cane, and avoid them.

I must say, it’s NOT easy, and IS scary… Only you and a stick from walking head long into a chare or table. But I managed OK, and the drill was designed to show that you can trust the cane and what it tells you.

That’s it, that’s cane use 101… Stay tuned for more, but my next O&M won’t be till January and the new year. Thank you all for your support.

Tap, tap, tap, tap… Left, right, left right… Can you stay in step? 🙂

Do you know what the White Cane really means, and it’s history? Do you know why the White Cane is, white? You can learn more here

A white cane is used by many people who are blind or visually impaired, both as a mobility tool and as a courtesy to others. Not all modern white canes are designed to fulfill the same primary function, however: There are at least five different varieties of this tool, each serving a slightly different need. Learn more…

As a driver, do you know the White Cane Law? You should…
Do you know that October 15th is National White Cane Safety Day

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