Veronica With Four Eyes

Ten Signs You’re Friends With A Blindness Cane User

For many of my sighted friends, I am the first person they have ever met who uses a blindness cane. Because of this, I have been able to teach them a lot about the world of visual impairment and assistive technology, and in exchange they keep me from running into things and hurting myself. Recently, several of my friends have been telling me about how being around me and seeing how I used my blindness cane has influenced how they see a lot of things around them, whether it be accessible structures, inaccessible structures, or blindness cane users in the media. Today, I will be sharing a humorous post about ten signs that someone is friends with a blindness cane user. A lot of these also apply to family members of cane users as well.

You have been hit in the bag of the leg with a cane while walking

I jokingly tell people that we aren’t truly friends until they accidentally get hit in the back of the leg with my blindness cane while I am moving it across the floor. I promise that I am not intentionally hurting my friends when I do it, but if they are walking slightly ahead of me or suddenly stop, they are highly likely to get a cane to the leg. It’s not painful, just a light tap to know I’m still there.

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You narrate your surroundings even when they aren’t around

Whenever I am walking around somewhere unfamiliar or a place that is filled with obstacles, especially in the dark, I ask for my friends to be a human guide and describe my surroundings. This includes alerting me to things like poles, traffic, curbs, potholes, and similar items that my cane may not always pick up. In addition, I have photosensitivity and request that my friends alert me to flickering lights so I can close my eyes.

A friend of mine was telling me how they were walking around with another person and kept pointing out when they would walk up to the curb or when a street lamp was flickering, which confused the other person they were walking with quite a bit. My friend was so used to pointing things out for me that they would narrate their surroundings even when I’m not there.

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You get excited if you see another blindness cane user

A popular stereotype is that every blindness cane user knows each other. While that isn’t the case, my friends still will tell me whenever they see someone using a blindness cane, and usually describe their cane or any other assistive technology they noticed them using. This usually leads to a conversation about assistive technology or questions about orientation and mobility techniques. It’s worth noting my friends know not to take pictures of blind people or to approach them randomly to ask questions.

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You also get excited over talking crosswalks

Below, I’m going to copy and paste a conversation I had with a friend who was visiting a major city in the US:

Friend- “Today a sidewalk told me when to cross and I thought that was cool. How do you normally cross the street?”

Me- “That’s cool! I usually just listen for cars or ask a sighted person to help me cross.”

Friend- “Wait, why aren’t talking crosswalks a thing everywhere? I feel like just listening for cars is a great way to get hit by a car.”

Me- “Yeah, there are more talking crosswalks being installed all the time, but they aren’t everywhere yet.”

Friend- “Wow, that should really be a thing! It would help so many people!”

I agree, friend, I agree.

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You know the different types of canes

Remember how I said my friends notice other blindness cane users? They have also learned that blindness canes come in many shapes and sizes, from rigid white canes to my foldable marshmallow tip cane, and that everyone has their own preference. I think the one thing everyone is most surprised by is that canes come in different heights and are not one size fits all- using a too small or too large cane can lead to injury.

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You know about a lot about assistive technology

If I ask one of my friends to grab me my portable video magnifier or to check if a movie has audio description, they will immediately know what I am talking about and be happy to help. Even if they don’t know, many of my friends take the time to learn about things I use to help make the world accessible, since it allows them to gain an interesting perspective. Bonus- they get super excited with me if I find something that is accessible!

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You notice accessibility fails everywhere

I have a folder on my phone of accessibility fails friends have texted me about, saying that since they learned about what makes things accessible, they get annoyed when they see things that aren’t accessible. Some of the pictures in the folder include:

  • Braille printed next to a door hinge so someone could get hit with the door
  • Several mobility aid ramps of death (also known as too steep ramps or ramps with stairs)
  • 2D Braille
  • A small print sign that says “large print available upon request”
  • A strobe light display spreading awareness about seizures

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You also know how to make things accessible

One of my friends that I’ve known for years can take one look at a piece of text and determine if I can see it, and they are always accurate. If it’s something I need to read, they will immediately start reading it out loud or find a way to increase the text size on the document or on the device they are using. This is especially helpful for reading screenshots or text messages.

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You forget your friend is visually impaired sometimes

Even I am guilty of doing this to my visually impaired friends. My sighted friends do not constantly mention how fantastic their vision is, so likewise I do not constantly mention how not fantastic mine is. As a result, there are times where I am handed things in small print or accidentally left for a moment when people move without telling me. Luckily, my friends tend to remember quickly that they are forgetting something… or someone.

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You are glad that you are friends

Isolation and depression are major problems for people with visual impairments, and especially blindness cane users, because we live in such a visual world. By having friends to help me navigate the world, I have a much more positive outlook on my low vision and feel much more confident using a cane.

So, thank you friends for being some of the most amazing people I know. I’ll always be glad I met you!

Ten Signs You’re Friends With A Blindness Cane User. A humorous l0ok at what it's like being friends with a blindness cane user, from the perspective of a college-age student