“Are you taking your cane?” | My love/hate relationship with my mobility aid

“Are you taking your cane?” Here’s a question I’ve been asked by my parents, some of my friends and it’s one I find I ask myself quite often too. You’d think the fact that my cane gives me independence would result in me automatically reaching for it every time I head out of the house and whilst this is often the case, sometimes it’s not so simple. 

I’ve spoken before about some of the background of my cane and I’s relationship, yes it is a relationship, one that’s taken a lot of hard work, a lot of trust has had to be built and there have been quite a few bumps in the road but I think we’ve reached a point where most of those insecurities have been overcome and I’d go as far as to say that we’re stronger than ever. 

A photo of Elin walking with her cane on a path in between pretty trees and purple flowersPIN IT

I know, I find it a little odd that I’m speaking about my cane in this context too but it’s one that makes sense to me and perhaps it does to some of you too, those of you who have had to learn to love your mobility aid and learn to embrace what it brings to your life. 

It’s not always easy is it?

My love/hate relationship with my cane

A little bit of background

After having one or two mobility lessons with my cane when I was about eight years old, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me, I was constantly questioning why would I want to expose my impairment in the form of a cane?

As a kid who had just been diagnosed two years prior to this, I think it was only natural that I felt this way, I didn’t necessarily understand my vision impairment at this point after all.

A photo of Elin from the side, she is holding her folded up cane in one of her hands and she is looking downPIN IT

The fact that my cane would be one of the few things that could give me independence one day was always on the cards so I tried my best to see it in a positive way, but it took longer than anticipated to find acceptance in this fact.

When I was in those early stages of my sight loss journey, I had enough vision so I wanted to make the most of the time I had without my cane being a necessity.

So for a good few years, my cane was hidden away in a box, placed beside some magnifiers that didn’t prove useful anymore, I think there was old school work somewhere in there too. You know, all the things you store away because they just don’t seem to serve a purpose anymore. 

And that was it, my cane didn’t have a purpose, it wasn’t something I wanted to bring out into broad daylight, I didn’t want to show it off to the world. 

And so it served a sentence of eight more years in the box.

But once I had a new mobility officer, my perspective seemed to change slightly and the object which once had no purpose turned into a significant part of my life. 

This change of heart didn’t happen over night so there wasn’t any great enthusiasm to begin with. But I soon became a little more accustomed with the benefits the cane could introduce and the list of pros started to grow.

So when I was faced with the choice of whether or not I wanted to gain more independence, the decision making scale tipped to the side of my mind which was screaming ‘Yes, of course I do.’

And so in that initial meeting with my new mobility officer, my cane was taken out of the dust covered box for the first time in what felt like forever.  

A white cane which is folded, being held up vertically, a black handbag with gold hardware can be seen in the backgroundPIN IT

It was clear from the point I unfolded my cane that it had been a while since it was last in use, the slender white stick barely reached my hip and so an order was placed for a new one. 

That was the start of my fresh chapter, a new journey to embark on and a lot of making up to do with the object that I felt condemned and defined by before. 

Perceptions and their impact

I consider my cane to be a symbol of my impairment, I appreciate it for being that now because it lets others around me know that I can’t see. But when I was younger, this concept wasn’t one I wanted to embrace. 

I wanted my impairment to be a hidden factor of my identity, I wanted to be like everyone else, I didn’t want to stand out from the crowd, not that I fit in very well as it was. 

I knew that my cane would encourage questions, ones that I didn’t want to answer. 

I knew that some people would see the cane and only the cane, not the person behind it. 

I didn’t find comfort or reassurance when using it so I chose not to. 

There are so many misconceptions that so tightly wrap around the words disability, blind or vision impaired and I guess I saw the cane as being something that could encourage further stereotypes to be explored and exploited.

I didn’t want that because I thought I faced enough as it was. 

And so I let the worry and the fear of others judgements dictate what I did, not only in terms of my cane but other aids for my vision impairment too, my brailler being one of them. 

The trusty Perkins never made it into public again after one use in class, hearing a few sniggers was enough for me to slot it back under its protective case, never to be seen by anyone in my year again. 

And that’s sad really, isn’t it? The fact that I, and so many others, feel embarrassed or ashamed of the things that can give us independence and the freedom we deserve. 

Surely it should be about us, no one else, because they’re not the ones in our situation, they don’t know the ins and outs of the challenges disabled people face on a daily basis and they don’t know how empowering mobility aids can be once they start to be embraced. 

So many of us believe that our mobility aids define us but what really takes its toll is others judgements.

We shouldn’t have to live in the shadow of those perceptions. 

A photo of Elin sitting on a wooden bench which circles around a tree, there are trees in the backgroundPIN IT

Mobility aids are there for a reason, to make life just that little bit easier and to give someone their independence. But when the worry of how your mobility aid will be percieved by others overrides its true meaning and purpose, I know that it can take a lot to reach a point of confidence when using it. 

It’s not an easy journey by any means, there will be ups and downs but when they’re coupled together, they help to build this story; A journey full of emotions, sadness, anger and frustration. But with time glimmers of acceptance start to cast a light over the negativity and it’s important to never lose sight of that hope.

An inner battle is inevitable, at least it has been for many of the people I’ve spoken to, but it’s one that can be overcome with time, with patience and with confidence in what your mobility aid can bring to your life.  

You’re the only one who matters in this situation, do what’s best for you. I’ve come on leaps and bounds since I started doing just that.

A photo of Elin from the side, one of her arms is resting on another and is raised to just underneath her chin. There are trees in the backgroundPIN IT

The current situation

Despite being 10 times more comfortable and confident with my cane nowadays, I’m often still faced with the same question, “Are you taking your cane?”

‘Do I really need to take it today?’ I know the answer is always yes, I will always need it’s help with the level of eyesight I have but an element of doubt still creeps in from time to time. 

I could of course step out into the world without it but the consequences of that aren’t worth thinking about, I’ve crashed into stone pillars and misjudged steps even when using my cane so god knows what would happen if I didn’t have it to hand! 

Thinking back to each outing without my cane, the ones which were punctuated with the afore mentioned incidents, with every bump knocking another ounce of confidence out of me, eventually helped me to realise all the positives a cane could offer.

I’ll hold my hands up and say that there are still times when I feel a tinge of frustration towards my mobility aid and the fact I have to use it, but that’s all a part of the process.

Maybe I’ll reach a point of feeling completely comfortable and happy with my cane one day, who knows, but for now we’re still building on our relationship, taking small steps and seeing what adventures we can go on together. 

So, am I taking my cane? 

I never thought that the tables would turn when it came to the answer to this question, but yes, you bet I am. 

Saying that brings a sense of achievement in a way because it’s taken a lot of hard work to reach this answer. 

Sure, I might not take my cane on every outing because I sometimes don’t feel the need to if I’m with family or friends who can guide me but if I’m going out and about independently, I always ensure that I don’t leave my cane behind. 

A photo of Elin standing on a path which leads through trees and flowersPIN IT

I never thought I’d reach a point of feeling confident or comfortable when using my cane and I know I still have a few yards to walk yet before I reach the end of the road where those feelings lie, but my cane will be in hand to walk those last few steps, that’s a guarantee.

Whilst feelings of neglect have camouflaged my cane and I’s story in the past, I’ve grown up and learned to accept my vision impairment and let the fear of using my cane slip a little as I realised what the benefits of it can be.

And whilst I sometimes still remain dubious, it turns out its not so bad because my cane gives me much more than it takes away from me.  

A white cane folded up and being held horizontallyPIN IT

It gives me independence, it saves me from my own clumsiness when out and about (well it does 98% of the time, it can’t be held accountable for the other 2%) and perhaps most importantly to me, it makes those I come across aware of my vision impairment, something I haven’t always felt comfortable in disclosing myself. 

So when you think about it, my cane is pretty great. 

And as I tease a smile when saying that, I realise that with acceptance, hard work and a bucket load of determination, fear can turn into strength.

My cane no longer defines me because I have the power and every time I choose to pick up my mobility aid, walk out the door with it, unfold it ready for use and navigate the world with it extended out in front of me, I embrace that power. 

And while it still can be an internal battle at times, mostly on the days when I don’t want to talk about my disability or when I wish it wasn’t there, I am no longer in such a big conflict with my cane, and that is something I’m incredibly proud to say. 

A photo of Elin standing on a path which leads through trees and flowers. She is wearing skinny cream trousers with red stripes, a black bardot top with buttons on the neckline and a black handbagPIN IT

I definitely have a love/hate relationship with my cane and maybe a small part of me will always be working on seeing it in a positive light but I know I’m not alone in that. So what kind of relationship do you have with your mobility aid? Are you happy? Or is it a work in progress? 

Whatever your status, I think it’s important for us all to remember that these things take time and whether you’ve been completely confident from the get go or, like me, you’ve struggled to build that bond, every emotion you feel towards your cane, your wheelchair, your walking stick or whatever other mobility aid it might be is valid.

It’s such a personal journey and it takes a different amount of time for each person to reach that final destination. 

But if you’re struggling right now, please remember that you’re doing great and every small step you take, even if it’s just an inch forward, it will help you to get to where you want to be. 

It will get easier. 

Elin x

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  • Helen
    July 7, 2019

    Hi Elin

    Thank you for sharing this. I am going to share it on my own FB & my page ‘Living with Ushers Syndrome’.

    I am fortunate that I’ve been confident from the word go. I started off with a symbol cane which I used for about three to four weeks before deciding I’d had enough of people ignoring it and not giving me the space I need so called my rehabilitation officer to ask him to put me on the long cane. He was more than happy to do. After a cancelled appointment and a few weeks, I am now three days in of using it everywhere and I take it with me every time I step out of the door. Gives me so much independence although I’m still looking down too much! Lifetime habit unfortunately.

    My Mum on the other hand didn’t accept my symbol cane to begin with and kept insisting she would help me, which is okay but I didn’t want that. I wanted to help myself, but as I before I got the long one and started practicing, she was coming round. After getting long one and practicing round the block she seemed more positive. Today felt like a step back as we went to a market and she kept saying she would help me as it was very busy and kept telling people ‘it’s okay’ when they apologised getting in the way of my cane and told me I need to thin’ of them too. Hmm! That could be because I have got some good sight at the moment but it is affected by things in it. We will get there!

    Can’t wait to use it when it’s dark as will really really help me, even in my own area!

    • Elin
      July 9, 2019

      Hi Helen, thank you so much. It’s great to hear that you’ve been confident with your cane all along, I always love hearing things like that. It’s definitely great in terms of giving someone their independence and I feel like it makes navigating the world as a vision impaired person a lot less nerve wracking! I’m sorry to hear that you saw that as a step back, I know that situations like that can be tricky at times. I think parents are so used to protecting us that it can be difficult for them to step back and let us do our own thing but I’m glad your mum is coming round to the idea of you using your cane now, hopefully she feels more confident in that soon too. Thank you so much for reading!

  • Amanda Gene
    July 7, 2019

    I use a long white cane. Sometimes people think I’m faking my visual impairment. That is because I wear glasses I have night blindness and Nystagmus. Having a cane makes me feel better when I am walking during sunny, cloudy days and at night. 🙂

    • Elin
      Amanda Gene
      July 9, 2019

      That’s awful that people think you’re faking your vision impairment, it just goes to show that there are far too many preconceived ideas out there. It’s great to hear that your cane makes you feel better when out and about. Thank you for reading as always Amanda 🙂

  • Kyle Cogan
    July 8, 2019

    I’ve been using a white cane for 24 years but as a child I wasn’t one to take it anywhere constantly. I started out with a frame that was built out of plumming stuff such as pipe with the corners being like elbow pipes just as if one is pushing a lawnmower let’s say. I felt that this contraption was not really for me as I had to use two hands and a walking frame of sorts isn’t something a blind person would really use. The only time I ever don’t have my cane in my hand is when I’m in my own home or in my parent’s home or I’m to not have it up if I’m in a house that has been newly constructed with floating floors as they scratch easily a lot of the time my white cane stayed in the car as it was about the only car we primarily used and as dad would drive the ute to and from work and the car hardly went out in the evening and if it did I would either put my cane in the back seat with me or take it out of the car altogether particularly when I would catch the school bus or I was going out with somebody in another vehicle. to be perfectly honest and I’m sorry for what I’m about to say but I feel naked without my cane as I have no usable vision whatsoever I never thought much about orientation and mobility in my younger days and before I ever got introduced to the use of a folding cane a long ridged cane wouldn’t fit in my bag especially if I was on the tandom bike to ride to school or home again which was rare.

    • Elin
      Kyle Cogan
      July 10, 2019

      Thanks for sharing some of your experiences. It’s great to hear that you take your cane everywhere with you and that you’re confident when using it, I think hearing things like that can help others too.

  • Louise
    July 8, 2019

    Hi Elin
    My teenage daughter is finding it very hard to accept her VI disability. She won’t have a guide dog or a white cane. She relies on me and friends when out and she is very canny and adept at doing so. However, on her own? You said turning fear into strength is true and we are waiting for it to happen, slowly.
    My heart aches for my daughter and, reading your blogs, for you too. You are truly a wonderfully brave young lady and thank you for taking the time to write your blogs. Keep on with them, you are an inspiration. Xxx

    • Elin
      July 10, 2019

      Hi Louise, thank you so much, that really means a lot. I’m so sorry that you’re daughter is struggling to accept her vision impairment at the moment, I was exactly the same a few years ago so I can relate to that aspect of things. I think having a disability can be extremely difficult to accept in your teens because so many things are changing and you’re trying to figure everything out but I’m sure that with time and your invaluable support, your daughter will slowly begin to accept her disability and become stronger because of it. I know it’s a tough journey but I’m sure she will get through it and maybe one day she’ll find that confidence to pick up a cane too. Thank you so much for reading as always xx

  • Holly
    July 9, 2019

    I can definitely relate to everything you said, I wish I knew that at the time when I hated using my cane and would try my best to get out of doing so that those feelings are completely normal and natural for many blind and visually impaired people. Thank you for sharing your story, I know that it will help so many people who are feeling exactly the same. So proud of you for how far you’ve come and for sharing your experiences, well done! You should be really proud of yourself xxx

    • Elin
      July 10, 2019

      It’s definitely normal to experience those feelings and I think that’s why it helps to read other people’s stories just to know that you’re not alone in what you might be feeling, or how you felt at one point. I’m so proud of how far you’ve come too, we should both give ourselves a pat on the back! Thank you lovely xxx

  • Angie Kirchoff
    July 10, 2019

    All so true, so hard to pull out the cane and not feel everyone look your way! It does take time and acceptance. I just love your blog You are so positive. I have RP and have cane but thinking about getting a dog. I’m not sure. But you are such a wonderful writer! Keep it up!,

    • Elin
      Angie Kirchoff
      July 10, 2019

      Thank you so much Angie, that means a lot! It’s great to hear that you’re thinking of getting a dog, I’ve been thinking about that too but haven’t been successful yet but maybe one day! I think it all comes down to personal preference at the end of the day and what you feel most comfortable with, I’m sure that will become clear to you soon. Thank you so much for reading, it’s always great to hear from others who have RP too!

  • Sarah
    July 14, 2019

    Something that was really refreshing to see was the pictures you took with your cane. It doesn’t look like a mobility aid at all and just looks like an extension of yourself (and you’re very fashionable!). Sometimes I find that mobility products can look quite clinical, but your photography just goes to show that a lot of it is perception and perspective. You make talking about your disability and struggles really enlightening and educational, which is something I truly admire you for. It’s a shame people’s judgements made you feel a certain way in the past because it really isn’t anything to do with them and it just seems cruel, but the fact you’ve gained more confidence over the years is wonderful. In a strange sort of way, I can relate to your story. I have arthritis and thankfully, it is well under control now, but at one point, it wasn’t at all. I really struggled to get about and I felt ashamed of going out in public because people could tell that I had issues with my mobility. I felt embarrassed and like it was really unfair because most people my age were fit and healthy and I was bitter. But, I refused to give in and I went out limping and struggling everywhere because I told myself that the people who truly care about me and have a good heart see me for who I am, not a condition that I have. That’s what kept me going and in a lot of ways, I think it has helped the actual arthritis as well. I think gaining that confidence in yourself and not letting others bring you down is essential. It’s just a very difficult journey with lots of ups and downs. But I have every confidence that you’re helping and inspiring many other people out there who are going through the same things as you are. You’re awesome Elin! x

  • Aleeha
    July 18, 2019

    I can totally understand why you have this love hate relationship with your cane! From movies to real life, I guess we’ve all been fed stereotypes of certain disabilities through the representation of a person with a mobility aid. I guess a good way to look at it now though is to remember your confidence every single time you use your cane in public and to think about all the positive things everyone must thinking about you. I for one am always in awe of people using mobility devices and how they adjust to life with a disability – it shows just how strong you are.
    Aleeha xXx

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