Yesterday I got two new white canes from our state's Rehab. Services for the Blind. No big deal, but it was. On the deaf-blind listserv to which I belong everyone but mee seemed to use a cane with a rolling tip. Ordinary white canes used by blind people have a hollow nylon tip slipped onto the end of the metal or fiberglass cane shaft. But the rolling tip can look like a ball, a marshmallow, or a larger one. I got the marshmallow.
Instead of lifting the cane tip from the ground to tap it one step ahead of me as I walk, I can roll it along the ground one or two steps ahead of me. The difference this makes was a real Surprise to me.
By rolling the spinning cane tip along the ground ahead of me I get Much more tactile information about the ground ahead of me. I can still tap the cane, if I choose, in areas where it is difficult to roll, such as in uneven clumps of grass and weeds. But on a hard surface the rolling cane tip makes more noise than the tap, tap, of a straight tipped cane so that if a person has some usable hearing left, as I do, there is also a louder noise to provide auditory cues about the environment.
Ann had to walk slowly with a support cane, or use a wheelchair. When walking together we walked slowly with me holding onto her elbow, both to follow her guiding, and to help steady her. I used to tell her that I would keep her on her feet if she showed me where the hell we were going. We had a deal.
So I haven't traveled alone with a white cane for years. I had a sighted friend walking behind me yesterday to warn me of any life threatening obstacles I missed with my rolling cane. She said she was biting her lip not to warn me of everything, but I went for a walk in town and found parked cars, trash dumpsters, slopes under curbs leading into sewers, and all other obstacles. I felt safer having her along.
With a few more practice sessions, I think I will feel confident enough to take walks by myself, instead of waiting for a sighted friend to go with me. Some people think the dog I've trained as a Hearing Ear dog for noise at doors and the doorbell is also a Dog Guide for the blind. Nope, just a good hearing friend and protector. So if anyone sees me using a cane And walking the dog they may be confused. Kind of funny. The dog will have to learn to get used to the cane moving out ahead of us also.