Welcome to my Navigating College Campuses series, where I talk about all of the different ways I use Orientation and Mobility (O&M) techniques and my blindness cane as a student with low vision at my large public university. After spending four years living on my college campus, I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating in several different conditions and situations, and am so excited to share my tips and tricks with other students and future students. Today, I will be sharing my tips for using a blindness cane in the rain, as many of my friends and I didn’t have experience walking for long periods of time in the rain until we got to college. These tips are also helpful for people who are not on college campuses who are wondering how to walk in the rain with a blindness cane.
Using a marshmallow/roller tip cane
Since 2017, I have almost exclusively used marshmallow/roller tip canes when walking on my college campus, and have found this style of cane with the constant contact method to be preferable over using a pencil tip cane or different methods. This is because constant contact allows me to figure out where puddles are, and more importantly alert to obstacles that I might not otherwise notice due to decreased visibility from the rain.
This is a personal preference, but I also prefer to use my bright yellow and red blindness cane when walking in the rain, as it is easier for cars to see the cane when I am crossing the street. This isn’t to say that my white cane isn’t reflective enough, but the yellow works especially well.
- Decoding The Tips of Blindness Canes
- How To Order Custom Colors for Blindness Canes
- Five Questions To Ask When Buying A Blindness Cane
Why I don’t use an umbrella
There are areas of my college that can feel like a wind tunnel, especially when it is raining, so most students do not use umbrellas when walking to class since it’s easy for umbrellas to get damaged. Another thing to factor in is that having an umbrella in one hand and a blindness cane in the other can leave someone with no free hands, which can be both challenging and dangerous since someone could easily fall down. For this reason, it’s better to have a rain jacket with a hood instead of trying to balance an umbrella.
On a more humorous note, when I first started using a blindness cane, I tried all sorts of different methods to balance an umbrella and my cane at the same time. Some of these methods included creating an umbrella holder in my backpack so I could hold the umbrella over my head, buying an umbrella hat, and even walking with an umbrella and my cane at the same time. None of these options worked out particularly well- the umbrella almost flew out of my backpack in a wind storm, the umbrella hat looked utterly ridiculous, and I found myself getting accidentally confused and tapping my umbrella on the ground while holding my blindness cane straight up in the air. Not a good look!
- Twelve Blindness Cane Storage Solutions
- Blindness Canes and Falling Down: Navigating College Campuses
Wear rain boots or shoes with traction
One time during the first semester of my freshman year of college, my friend and I got caught in a torrential downpour when walking back from class, and I almost slipped multiple times when walking because my shoes didn’t have the best traction. I got back to my dorm and noticed that not only did it look like that I had jumped in a pool with all of my clothes on, but that I needed to make sure that my rain boots were in an easy-to-locate location.
After that experience, I have never taken my rain boots for granted again, and they are very important for being able to walk safely when it’s raining or very wet.
Using alternative transportation
Another thing I learned after getting caught in the torrential downpour was that my college has a bus system that features a campus shuttle that I could use to get to central points on campus. While it wouldn’t completely protect me from having to walk in the rain, knowing where the campus shuttle stops were helped me to at least avoid walking part of my route in the rain.
Students who are blind or that have low vision may also be approved for disability transportation services at their college. Disability transportation services allow for students and staff with documented short-term or long-term disabilities to have access to door-to-door transportation between their dorm and other buildings on campus as needed. The exact method of transportation varies between colleges, though my college uses golf carts driven by student employees. Each college has different rules for how, when, and where students can schedule rides, but it’s an extremely helpful service.
- How Do People with Visual Impairments Use the Bus System?
- Using Disability Transportation Services In College
Asking for a security escort
In another incident during my freshman year, my friend and I got caught in a flash flood on campus, and my friend did not feel comfortable serving as a human guide for me, since they thought we both would get injured. We ended up contacting campus security and asked if we could have one of the security officers escort us back to our building, either by foot or by car. Because I have low vision, they ended up sending a car for us and they drove us back to the building, though they can also send officers to walk students by foot to their destination.
It’s worth noting that campus security officers are not to be treated as a method of alternative transportation or as an alternative to human guides, though they are definitely a very helpful resource if a student gets stuck in severe weather or if it is unsafe to walk somewhere.
- Blindness Canes and Nighttime: Navigating College Campuses
- Ten Reasons You Should Call A Security Escort
Can blindness canes be used in thunderstorms?
Short answer- no!
Most blindness canes are made out of some form of metal, so they are not safe to have out during thunderstorms that have lightning. Since it’s near impossible to predict whether a given storm will have lightning or not, it’s better to play it safe and not use a cane.
Still need to get things done on campus but can’t go outside? Some alternative options for getting tasks accomplished on campus from inside include:
- Getting in touch with the professor and asking to attend class virtually/over video chat
- Using a human guide and/or alternative transportation to get to a building
- Requesting food for delivery- the dining hall may be able to help arrange this
- Using virtual resources through the campus library
- Having study groups on a virtual meeting platform
- My Favorite Tips For Attending Live Video Lectures
- How I Attend College Classes Remotely With Chronic Illness
- College Libraries and Low Vision
- Blindness Canes and Dining Halls: Navigating College Campuses
Summary of tips for using a blindness cane in the rain
- Use a roller tip cane or a cane that can provide good feedback
- If possible, use a raincoat instead of an umbrella so that you have a free hand, and wear rain boots
- Use alternative transportation to get around campus, such as a bus or disability transportation service
- If a situation seems particularly dangerous, get in contact with campus security
- Do not use a blindness cane in a thunderstorm, as canes are made of metal