American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections Special Issue: Early Childhood ORIENTATION AND MOBILITY
by Jasmyn Polite
From the Editor: Jasmyn Polite has had low vision all her life. She finally became a confident user of the long white cane after she graduated from high school. In this article she writes about the sense of freedom that the cane has given her.
Imagine having limited side vision, also known as tunnel vision, where you are not able to see what's on your sides or what's coming from up and down, such as a flight of steps or a fallen branch lying across the sidewalk. This is where the long white cane comes in handy. Canes are great because they allow you to feel whether there is an object or drop-off in front of you. Let me tell you about my experience using a cane and how it has affected my life.
I started learning to use my cane in fourth grade at my school, the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind (FSDB). At that time I really didn't use my cane very much because I was afraid that people outside my blind community would make fun of me. I only used my cane at school. Even there I avoided using it outside of orientation and mobility lessons with my instructor.
One day I was running to a Christmas party near Wortman Hall in the deaf department of FSDB. I didn't have my cane with me because I thought I would be fine without it, since I had some sight. However, I was wrong! As I was running I didn't see a curb. Boom! I tripped and fell. My knees were hurt, and I scraped my hands on the concrete. I knew I should have brought my cane with me so I wouldn't get hurt. I should have remembered that I had glaucoma and I couldn't see well, especially since it was dark out. This incident taught me that my cane is very important.
Over the years that followed I started using my cane, with assistance from my orientation and mobility instructor. After I graduated from FSDB I moved to Iowa, where I met my mentor, Ted Hart, through the National Federation of the Blind. He started helping me with my cane skills. He gave me constructive criticism on how to use my cane more effectively. His advice helped me improve my travel skills and build confidence in myself as a visually-impaired person. Today I use my cane everywhere I go. I enjoy the feeling of being independent without getting hurt.
Whenever I use my cane, whether it's at school or in other places I go to, I get questions from people around me. They ask me things like, "How do you walk across the street?" and "How well can you see?" I try to answer their questions politely and educate them about blindness. My advice to anyone who is blind or visually impaired is to consider your safety and ignore what people think of you. At the end of the day, you know best what tools in your life will help you be safe!
In my heart I know that my cane keeps me from getting into trouble with things such as puddles, broken sidewalks, and parking meters. Ever since I was a little kid, I've always loved to travel. Now that I know how to use my cane the right way, I enjoy traveling more—and I'm traveling safely!