Veronica With Four Eyes

Blindness Canes And Sporting Events: Navigating College Campuses

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 experiences with attending college sporting events as a student with low vision who uses a blindness cane.

My favorite cane to bring

My favorite cane to bring to sporting events at my college is my six-section blindness cane, which collapses to a smaller size than my standard four-section cane and gives me more options for storage, which I’ll talk more about later. I highly recommend bringing a collapsible cane since students often don’t need to use it once they find their seats and can always use a friend as a human guide if needed. I have a custom colored blindness cane that features my school colors that I bring to sporting events as well as other university-related events as a unique way of showing my school spirit.

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Ask about ADA entrances and seating

I have trouble walking up and down the stairs in the stadium, so I asked building staff about specific ADA entrances and locations for elevators so that I would be able to find my seat prior to the first time I went to the stadium. Since I typically attend sporting events as a member of the school pep band, this is especially helpful information to know ahead of time so I’m not wandering around with my cane and a heavy instrument case or getting lost in the basement of the arena (which has happened before). This information can be found online by looking up the name of the building and “ADA” or “accessibility,” or by calling ahead of time. For students looking for accessible seating information, I recommend calling prior to purchasing tickets or going to the student involvement office to see if specific seats are available, or which seats will work best.

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If possible, tune into an audio broadcast of the game

When I went to a baseball game a few years ago, one of the things that helped me the most was listening to a live audio broadcast of the game so that I could figure out what was going on. If I don’t know anyone sitting around me in pep band, I’ll often listen to the audio broadcast of the game through one of my earbuds so I can follow what is happening when I’m not playing. Most audio broadcasts can be found online for free through the school athletics website or through local radio.

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Store canes where they can’t easily be tripped over

Remember how I mentioned storage options for blindness canes? Out of all the possible places to store a cane, the ground is probably the worst option as they can pose a tripping hazard or get broken easily- or in the case of one of my friends, the cane might start rolling and fall through the bleachers.

Some of the places I store my blindness canes at sporting events include:

  • In a backpack/bag
  • Behind me in a chair
  • In my lap
  • Fully collapsed, secured, and behind my chair while I’m standing in front of it
  • Fully extended and against my shoulder (I try to avoid this whenever possible, but sometimes I have to quickly move and don’t have time to fold my cane)

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Dress for the event

While each school varies on how students typically dress for a sporting event, many students at my university will dress casually and in school colors for basketball games and similar events in lightweight items that can be easily layered or removed, such as a t-shirt or hoodie. Since there are lots of bright lights at events and I am very photosensitive, I wear a hat in one of our school colors and a pair of sunglasses to help block out the lights and decrease eyestrain, as well as a college t-shirt and other comfortable clothing that’s part of my band uniform. Some students may find they don’t need to wear a hat to help with blocking out lights, however in my case I’ve found that having my hat on helps with blocking lights that are behind me.

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Join the pep club- or even better, the pep band!

For students who are looking for a fun way to make friends and get great seats for games and other sporting events, joining the pep club can be a great option, since students often show up before peak times for admission. Pep club members often get priority seating at games, as well as the opportunity to connect with current students/alumni and show their school spirit. For musicians, many schools have a pep/athletic band that plays in the stands, and it’s a lot of fun- I’ve been in pep band for three years as a bass clarinet player, and I met two of my best friends through being in the band (shoutout to M and G!).

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Summary of tips for using a blindness cane at college sporting events

  • Bring a collapsible cane for easier storage since users often don’t need it once they find their seats and can always use a friend as a human guide if necessary.
  • Ask about ADA entrances and seating
  • If possible, tune into an audio broadcast of the game for additional audio description
  • Store canes where they can’t easily be tripped over
  • Dress for the event
  • Join the pep club for better seating options- or even better, the pep band!

Blindness Canes And Sporting Events: Navigating College Campuses. Tips for attending college sporting events with a blindness cane, from a college student and pep band member with low vision who uses a blindness cane full time