Over the past few weeks I have come in to contact with a few metal posts whilst walking in to town. You know the type; they are the thick metal ones that usually are holding up road signs or a street lamp; the hard metal, non-forgiving ones.
My assumption is that they haven’t been breeding or the council haven’t spent more money erecting new ones and that they’ve always been there and that I’ve always managed to navigate around them, be that with Errol, my old guide dog, or with my white stick.
So, something has changed and, discussing this with Vicky, I can only conclude that I’m hitting these posts now due to my sight deteriorating to a point that I now don’t receive any indication that they’re there. Its weird because, if asked, I would have said that I haven’t been able to see them for ages, but whilst they haven’t been clear, we can only assume that I was getting some sense that they were there and therefore managing to avoid them whereas now I don’t even get that.
No doubt that there are many people reading this and wondering what my stick is for if it’s not to help identify these posts so that I don’t walk in to them and you would be right. The white stick is designed to be swept from left to right, going just beyond the width of my shoulders, and therefore should make contact with and alert me to objects that are in my path. I would then be able to identify the object and navigate safely around it. Well that’s the theory! In practise, even when sweeping the white stick correctly, it is easy to just miss an object as you sweep and, especially if it’s just off centre and not very big (like a lamp post), not know about it until you hit it with your knee and/or shoulder or sometimes head.
A few weeks ago I bounced off the post in the photo. This is a particularly hefty post situated near a bridge on the busy A23, my route to Redhill town centre. I was walking home, had just gone under the bridge and, as I came out from under the bridge I was thinking about a car on the pavement that I had had to navigate on my way in. Right at that point, I was also overwhelmed with the noise from a train passing overhead, a large lorry passing on the road creating an echo under the bridge and also the noise of a crane or mechanical equipment operating nearby and then boom… the noise of a metal pole hitting my head!! I’ve no doubt that someone in a car or walking near me would have seen it and I wouldn’t blame them if they had a small chuckle at my expense but I can tell you that it hurt… it also bent my sunglasses and split the skin above my eyebrow!
So I have put this in the memory bank and haven’t hit this post since. I had also put hitting this down to the noise and nothing more. However, just this morning it happened again. It wasn’t the same post but it was on the same road!
I must admit, I don’t walk in to town as often now as when I had Errol and this is partly due to not having a need to but also a bit of ‘can’t be bothered’. I would consider myself to have good cane technique and be safe with using it, however, these couple of incidences have knocked my confidence and brings home how difficult getting out and about really is. I do find that I’m having to concentrate lots more when out on my own and that I get tense in the shoulders and I’m sure that this is partly due to not really knowing if I’m going to hit anything…
I wanted to share this with you all, not for sympathy, but to raise your awareness as to what it is really like for blind people using a white cane. Getting around with a white cane is slow, sometimes frustratingly so, and requires lots of concentration. I have a map of the town in my head that I recall all the time but this map isn’t just where roads are, but references key points/landmarks on a journey, pedestrian or safe road crossing points, particular areas where pavement parking is bad, etc. I also have to remember where particular shops or houses are or obstacles such as trim trail equipment in the school playground! It doesn’t stop there, I then remember where steps are, where doors are and whether they swing in or out and then what’s inside… where the reception or customer service desk is, what other hazards might be waiting, etc. This all requires a certain level of concentration and if this slips or I get distracted (this could be by a car parked on the pavement or a loud noise as in the example above, or one of those pesky A frames, anything really that I’m not expecting) then I could get injured or lost very quickly!
A good example of a hazard/obstruction can be read in a Facebook post that I wrote back in June when I came across a builder’s van parked over a designated safe crossing point at the top of our road - https://www.facebook.com/705702186224015/posts/2160066160787603?s=725461053&sfns=cl
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