Recently, you may have read a dynamic post from a fellow blogger regarding his experience training with a guide dog. As a follow-up to his post and since October 15th is National White Cane Safety Day, I thought it fitting to describe my mobility experience. The need for exceptional mobility training is crucial to a visually impaired person’s success in life.
I have been blind since birth, and received my first cane at the age of four. Throughout my time in the public schools, I had training on proper cane techniques, and learned to listen to traffic sounds to ensure it was safe to cross a street. Around the age of eight, I heard classmates talking about having more freedom and walking to friend’s homes by themselves. Wanting to be like everyone else, I asked my mobility instructor to help me learn routes around my neighborhood. Quickly, I memorized my residential block and took a walk almost every afternoon. At the beginning, I was nervous that I would get lost so took a telephone with me and called a family member if an unexpected situation arose. My family did not immediately come to rescue me; rather, they asked pointed questions to see if I could solve the problem on my own. It was these experiences (although frightening at the time) which helped me mature and feel more comfortable rectifying unfamiliar challenges.
Mobility is a skill which must be utilized regularly so it remains fresh in one’s mind. A friend despised using a cane and hated having mobility training during his childhood. When he went to college, he didn’t have the necessary skills to venture anywhere by himself. As a result, he missed out on fun activities, and was often alone in his dorm room. Although he received training during college, he feels his mobility skills are still lacking, and he becomes anxious whenever he is without a sighted guide.
I hope all people with visual impairments make orientation training a regular part of their adjustment to blindness. Support from excellent mobility instructors coupled with understanding of family and friends has helped me to live an active and enjoyable life.