When to use a mobility aid
A common question that arises amongst people with
Stargardt’s Disease and other vision impairments is whether I use a
cane, a guide dog or neither. The question then asked is visual acuity,
how it helps and why some people use aids and others don’t. I’ve been
thinking about this question a lot lately and hope to help others with a
vision impairment and without to understand why I choose to use a cane
and what factors influenced my decision, and hopfeulyl help others to decide, whether to use a mobility aid.
I’ve previously written, my cane and I have a love-hate relationship. I
went through a period of using it to not wanting to know there were
three in existence in my house, to becoming best friends with it once
again. For the past few months I have made a conscious effort to get
used to using it and taking it whenever I’m out.
There were two main reasons I chose to use the cane:
roads: My ability to cross a road is absolutely terrible. I’m an avid
walker and love to get out in the fresh air and walk to calm my mind.
Every time I found myself curbside, I felt vulnerable, clumsy and even
more vision impaired. I couldn’t make out whether there were cars
coming, if near a busy road there was no auditory break in the traffic
and I felt like I was walking into an abyss. Then came the anxiety from
the feeling of vulnerability and the loss of control. When I walked with
another person, I would solely rely on them to usher me across the
road. I knew this wasn’t healthy and I couldn’t rely on others. So Mr
Cane came back into my life once again like a clingy, annoying boyfriend
although this time he had gotten his act together and we were actually
getting along. I found just having the cane in my hand to indicate
brought a sense of calm and confidence to crossing a road, it let others
know that my vision sucked and they should be patient and careful if I
start to cross. More than anything it was security. It was a way of
announcing to the world I’m vision impaired. People’s reactions were
(mostly) helpful, they would stop and let me cross and some even
reversed to let me pass. It restored my faith in humanity and made me
feel like the world isn’t such a scary place.
problems: I’m a klutz on the best of days and now I’m a super klutz.
The pavement around where I live seems to be really bad, the huge
eucalyptus and gum trees’ roots have made the footpaths cracked and
uneven. Since using the cane I haven’t had any stacks or tripped over where
I normally would. Just to reinforce this, I went for my usual walk the
other day without my cane and I tripped numerous times and realised it
was my karma for leaving the cane at home. It’s actually quite
surprising how helpful the cane is when on the street. I never noticed
how much I was concentrating on where I was going and what I was walking
into. When I started using the cane I found I could relax a lot more
and take in my surroundings using my other senses rather than staring
intently at the ground in front of me.
to use a mobility aid such as a cane or guide dog is a highly personal
choice and isn’t solely based on visual acuity or degrees of vision.
Each person is different, has different experiences and different needs.
Here are some of the things that are usually taken into account when
deciding on an aid:
- Confidence: This is extremely important. Being confident with your surroundings, with the amount of vision you have and the way you use it will impact whether you decide to use a mobility aid.
This includes work – how you get there and what you do at work ie
whether you need to navigate a great deal, leisure activities such as
sports or running and social situations. Use of a mobility aid may not
be needed in all areas of a person’s life. It is pretty much impossible to run with a cane (yes I’ve tried and looked like a clown running down the street) and sometimes it’s better left at home.
- Location: Where you live can also play a part. If you need to travel far on public transport or have access to lifts from others will influence the decision to use a mobility aid.
- Perception: How
you perceive mobility aids plays a huge role, not so much for the
positive. I personally have struggled with, and still do, the stigma
surrounding using a cane. There tends to be a little less stigma
associated with a guide dog as they are far more cuter than a cane! As
much as I’d like to say how you perceive using a mobility aid doesn’t
attribute to whether you use one or not, it really does play a major
part. I avoided using my cane for a very long time because I was
embarrassed as to what people think and I still have times where I feel
like people are staring and talking about me.
one thing I have learned is that if I need help to not be ashamed and
to use it. If a cane, guide dog or anything else helps me navigate, feel
confident and improve my quality of life I should use it. I also know
personally and from others with a vision impairment that because we have
some sight we don’t ‘deserve’ a guide dog. This is utter rubbish. As I
mentioned before, if it helps us in life, we deserve it. Be open to
trying mobility aids, sometimes you find a use for them that you had