White Cane

Jim Turk walks down the sidewalk of a quiet neighborhood with white cane in hand. The grass lining the sidewalk is covered with hay, implying that perhaps some new grass seed had just been planted. To his right is the crosswalk and in the distance is a block of houses lined with green shrubs and trees. Jim wears dark sunglasses, a brown tee shirt and khaki shorts.

It is difficult to explain exactly how important my cane is to me. I was fully sighted until I was 28 years old, and, as you might expect, losing my vision hit me pretty hard. Suddenly, I was unable to drive a car, or even safely walk down the street. I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t use the microwave or the oven, or the TV, or the computer. There was a very real possibility that I could get lost by simply going outside to check the mail or walking from my back door to the garage. I became somewhat of a hermit, nervous about leaving my house, and not really knowing how to do it safely even if I had wanted to.

And then, I got my first white cane. It was a fairly flimsy little thing, and, as I found out later, it was also far shorter than I should have been using. Even that little cane made a noticeable difference though, and I started to regain some of the independence I had lost. My cane became a sort of catalyst for me to begin mentally healing and moving on with my life.

It is now almost 15 years later, and I am a self-defense instructor specializing in teaching other blind individuals. I have navigated bus terminals and airports, a challenge I could not have imagined taking on when I first started going blind. My cane has become one of the most important objects I own. While it is a necessary piece of equipment for travel, it has also become a symbol of perseverance and overcoming adversity.

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