Our Mentor Project Officer Chris reflects on our #LoveMyCane campaign and picks out his highlights from the stories shared by visually impaired cane users.
We launched our #LoveMyCane campaign on white cane day. aiming to inspire visually impaired young people to love their canes a little bit more. I struggled to come to terms with using my cane when I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. At first, I was embarrassed to use it, but I soon learned to see it as a vital tool. Importantly, I also realised that I’m not alone and that was key in helping me accept my white cane. So, I thought it would be brilliant to ask the VI community to share their experiences to help other young people going through similar struggles. The response has been incredible, with blogs, videos and audio coming from LOOK mentors, staff and visually impaired bloggers.
The first blog was from the author of My Blurred World Elin Williams. When Elin was first introduced to her cane, she felt that it would create further stereotypes and would fuel negative reactions. This is a feeling echoed by many of our bloggers who shared their stories. Alex Man for instance recalls stopping using his cane for many years, following negative reactions from the public. But like me, over time, Alex and other bloggers learned to view their canes as a vital tool for independence.
For LOOK Mentor Ibz it was the support from his friends that encouraged him to start using the cane, because they realised it would keep Ibz safe.
Rebecca Yeoman’s had a similar realisation and shared how her guide cane can help her navigate in the dark, especially when it’s busy. The cane helps her safely negotiate curbs and steps, helping her avoid accidents. Rebecca said: “It acts as your protector; it lets you know if there are things in the way. “
LOOK mentor Sonal, shared her experience of accepting the cane and also explained that her red and white cane symbolises both visual and hearing impairments. Talking of differently coloured canes, Luke Sam Sowden shared that he prefers using a red cane rather than a white cane because I love showing off a little bit of my personality.” Which is great. As well as a useful tool, the cane can be used to make you look cool! Oh, did I mention I’ve called my cane Michael; Michael cane… Get it?
LOOK Director Charlotte filmed a great video with a passionate call for young people to stop feeling embarrassed about using their canes. She said: “We shouldn’t be embarrassed to use the cane; we shouldn’t care what other people think.”
Holly Tuke, author of Life of a Blind Girl, sent an important message to all the young people who are currently struggling to accept their white cane. “Everyone goes on their own journey of learning to love their cane and that’s ok, we all have thoughts and feelings towards it, whether positive or negative, but it is important to remember that we are never alone and there are others that have those thoughts and feelings, that are on the same journey as us.”
I have been humbled and inspired by everyone’s responses. Thank you to everyone who got involved. I know that if I could have seen these inspiring stories when I was struggling to embrace my cane, it would have made the process so much easier.
It’s clear the discussion is an important one that needs to go on, which is why we will be continuing this campaign into the future.
In the next few weeks we will announce the second phase of Love My Cane, which will aim to reach more people and make a wider audience aware of how they can help young people feel less embarrassed about using their canes. Watch this space.