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As National White Cane Safety Day approaches, I think back about 13 years.

I was handed my first cane in downtown Madison, Wisconsin.  Met some folks on the corner of Lake and State Street--a busy shopping and entertainment area in the heart of UW- Madison. I thought it was strange that we would walk up this very busy street, with myself getting acclimated to using a cane for the first time. Challenging? Yes. Difficult? A little bit. Scary? Have to say yes.

After this initial introduction to the white cane, I knew I needed some serious instruction in order to “travel” alone. This I received soon after from Marshall Flax, an orientation and mobility instructor, at the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired.  Marshall asked me where I wanted to walk to in my hometown of Baraboo. “How about my favorite barber shop?” I asked. A nice little 10 block walk later, I entered Sam’s Barber Shop, proud as a peacock--with Marshall at my side, of course.

Today, it’s a different story. Absolutely nothing gives me more satisfaction, self-esteem, and pride than to leave my home and walk the 10 blocks downtown by myself. The white cane has made me a totally independent person. Once I let go of my inhibitions, my confidence soared. It’s all about being trained properly and trusting the cane in your hand.  It’s a very nice feeling when you leave your home--not to have to rely on anyone but yourself.

So, get off that couch and enjoy the day with your white cane!

--Gary Doering
 Baraboo, WI