Why My White Cane Is My Best Friend!
Over the six days of intensive training we did at our Blind/Visually-Impaired (BVI) daily living skills instruction, I learned so much about white-cane mobility and mobility techniques/strategies. White-cane mobility and independence go together, literally hand-in-hand. This isn’t a skill that is easily learned, or one that you can learn in one day. It is something that must be incorporated into your daily life in order to become truly fluent in its use.
Taking our students off-site, away from their hostel/dorm at Sanjiwani school was important to provide an unfamiliar place that required our students to utilize the new skills being taught by our experts on a daily basis. In addition, the venue we used was DNC (Disabled Newlife Centre). DNC is one of the only accessible buildings in the country with both wheelchair ramps and stairs and lots of railings along all hallways and stairwells. In addition, DNC (home to 35 children with different disabilities) is a very safe place to explore. An added bonus is the comfy volunteer quarters on the upper floor which provided us with a place to live for the week and debrief at the end of each day.
You might notice from the photos that some of the students were blindfolded. The reason for that is that some of them are students with ‘low-vision’. They have some sight, though it may be only the ability to see dark and light or perhaps make out some rough shapes of things within their range of sight. It can also be a ‘crutch’ to hold them back from learning the mobility techniques. In addition to that, one of the first things we noticed was how the students with total blindness relied on the students with low-vision to help guide them around the building, which is counter-productive to our goals to help gain mobility confidence and proficiency, crucial to their independence in life. We ‘evened’ the playing field with the blindfolds and also encouraged our students with total blindness not to rely on those partially sighted for mobility.
There are many mobility strategies that were taught by our group. We were fortunate to have the BVI mobility and resource teacher from Saniwani school in our ‘portfolio’ of expertise for this program, Mr. Milan Bishwokarma. He knew all of the techniques needed for proper mobility orientation and he jumped right in and started teaching both the students and volunteers.
From when they arrived to when they departed, some six days later, we saw remarkable improvement in the mobility of our students! Some were literally tapping and almost running from place to place. They had gained much confidence in their white-cane use and mobility abilities. This is a truly critical step to independent living.