I’ve kept my eye problems pretty much away from work, and the cane away from people I know. It’s just really hard to use the cane in front of them. I do use it in the subway or in an airport (it makes people nicer to me!). But up to now, it’s been strictly for use with strangers.
|The cane on the left is a mobility cane and the smaller, |
thinner one is on the right. These are my co-workers
Patrick and Kathleen rescuing the flyaway balloon.
So the company where I work had its annual meeting last week. Several of us were sitting in the staff lounge talking and watching two people standing on chairs trying to capture an escaped helium balloon. They were using an umbrella and not having a lot of success. I looked over and said “I have just the thing you need,” and pulled my “identity cane” out of my pocketbook. I opened it up and gave it them, and it helped to isolate the balloon in a corner, but wasn’t quite enough to pull it down from the ceiling. I said, “wait a minute” and then went to my luggage and pulled out the “mobility cane.” With the two canes, they were able to grab the balloon and bring it down to earth.
No more hiding the cane from my colleagues! Some folks looked at me in disbelief. What? Why? Whose is it? It’s mine. I have some visual issues, I said, suddenly realizing what I had done. I explained the difference between the identity and mobility canes. The identity cane is thinner and lighter than the other. It means “I have a visual impairment. Please get out of my way.” It’s good for finding my way on steps or an escalator and for checking depth of curves and divets in sidewalks. The mobility cane is much sturdier (for sweeping or tapping) and means “I have a visual impairment. Get out of my way or I’ll hit you.” It’s the one that you usually see people tapping the ground with. Anyway, caught off guard, I showed people how to use the canes and there was real interest… and so, I’m busted… out of the closet…
As for the meeting, it was a gathering of 10,000 people who came together to learn and share new ideas for the elderly. There was a blind architect who gave a talk about design considerations for people with visual impairments. The number of people who have eye problems increases daily as more and more of us get older.
|The American Disabilities Act requires|
curb cuts to have a colored tactile surface
to prevent people with visual impairments
from walking in to the street.
And without even planning it, I sort of opened the door about my own issues as well. I guess it was inevitable, and when it finally did happen, it wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as I had worried it would be.