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People who feel at risk for falls or insecure about bumping into things, either in their apartment or outside in the world, should contact their state agency for the blind and ask for assistance in obtaining a white cane and learning its proper use. This is, of course, just my opinion. But many do not realize that you do not have to be totally blind to qualify for this assistance and for the training that comes with it. In fact, many people with macular degeneration benefit by using a white cane. Usually a cane can be purchased from the same state agency. States are staffed with Orientation & Mobility counselors (called O & M Specialists). They are certified to help you determine which type of cane is best and what size of cane will fit you. They also teach you how to use the cane safely.

If you do not wish or feel it is appropriate to go through comprehensive O & M training with vision-blocking glasses, just indicate your wish to be trained as a low vision user. For those who do not have a prognosis of total vision loss, this may be a good way to go. For many people, a white cane that is built like a support cane is the perfect answer and requires minimal training to use. It gives stability while indicating to others that your sight is impaired.

In the four years that I used a white cane, I found it a tremendous relief in the simple act of seeking help, for example, at a Portland bus stop. No one greeted my request for clarification with “attitude” that the bus stop sign was obvious and right in front of me. This actually happened to me more than once. I also never had to hear my pathetic explanation to a stranger that I was sight impaired, explaining why I was asking a question that might have seemed dim-witted. In fact, when people understand that you are out and about with this disability, more often than not they find their grace to admire your courage and extend their kindness to you as a fellow human being. In my view, being the recipient of human kindness is worth a bundle all by itself.