October 15th was National White Cane Day. Some people may not realize what this day is all about. Did you know that when you see someone with a white cane it means they are blind? The cane is a tools used for multiple things: to bring awareness to others that someone has a visual impairment and to provide information to the holder about obstacles that may be in their path. On National White Cane Day we help bring awareness to others about the importance of the white cane in allowing those who are blind or visually impaired in achieving independence in their daily lives.
A recent experience made me realize that the white cane’s importance might extend even further than that.
The other day I was working with one of my younger clients at the park. She holds her cane at all times while outside, learning use the cane to explore and interpret the world around her. On this particular day we had walked across open paving stones next to a pond, feeling the gaps in between the stones with her cane. We ran up and down a hill, using the cane to feel the difference between the smooth concrete and the grassy surface. We also navigated around obstacles to eventually find the specific play structures she wanted to ride this day. Throughout the day we talked about the information the cane was conveying, what to expect based on the cane’s input, and how to respond.
As we were walking towards the car at the end of the session, an adult approached us and introduced herself to us. We meet lots of new people at the park, but this person was significant because she too used a white cane. She asked if my kiddo wanted to feel her cane. I watched as the 4-year old tactually explored her cane: running her hands along and noticing how tall it was, banging it on the ground and feeling the vibration it sent along the cane, and sliding it along the ground to feel what it made contact with.
While she was exploring the lady’s cane, I noticed a change my kiddo. She stood taller, she reached out to learn more about this new friend, and wanted her to join us. I believe this may have been the first instance where my kiddo realized that she was not the only person in the world using a cane.
She was not alone!
In that instant, I believe my kiddo started to make a connection with others who use white canes and thereby expanded her awareness of community.