Tag Archive for Long cane

Myth Bust: This blind girl CAN shop!

Today I had a very rough encounter with a shop assistant. A very quizzical, judgemental encounter….. But rather than be negative, this got me thinking; unless you have a visual impairment or live within close proximity to someone who does, this may be a common misconception that anyone of my readers may also hold.

So here in a series of blogs I am going to look at busting some myths and misconceptions. Now as my blog is all about me (selfish I know!) what I write here works for me and is my point of view. Sight loss has a MAHOOSIVE variant in the many that it affects, so what works for me may not work for another. After all VIs (Visually Impaired) are unique Human beings with their own individual characteristics.

I personally love to shop! Muse through rails of clothes, feeling the different texture. I find some shops easier than others, I also have my staple ‘go to’ shops for my essentials.

When I trained with my guide dog (both of them) it was explained to me about how a dog works in certain environments. How a dog works in a supermarket for example is different to how they work in a clothes shop. And most of this is down to how we as humans move around in said shops.

Mostly because of how the shops themselves lay out their stock. A supermarket is quite regimented, with aisles and shelving. Where as clothes shops work with rails, displays and a more ‘hap-hazard’ movable approach.

So, when in a clothes shop I do not ‘work’ my guide dog Fizz. By this I mean I do not hold her harness handle and ask her to guide me around….. Manly because we wouldn’t get past the first row of clothes as the space between rails isn’t wide enough for Fizz to work properly!

So once inside a clothes store I will simply hold her lead, I will keep her on my left hand side and I will use my right hand to feel my way around the store, feeling out mostly for the ends of rails that could cause me issues if I bump them.

The stores I frequent regularly are used to me and Fizz, they even know that at times she will just lay down if I am spending too long looking at a section! After all she is a dog; she has no need or interest in clothes!

But when we go into a different shop (which doesn’t happen often) the other shoppers (as today) and the staff appear amazed by it.

Today’s encounter saw me being asked to leave. And this was because the store assistant believed that I was not VI and that my guide dog was just a pet. (Despite her harness and all her ‘uniform’ stating she is just that)

The store assistant had watched me move around, touching the clothes, but that my dog was just walking behind me. I did explain the main reason for this was because the space between the clothes was only just big enough for me to walk in, let alone Fizz to walk beside me.

I explained how I am trained with Fizz and how dropping harness means she doesn’t have to be responsible for trying to navigate in such an unnavigable space. To which the store assistant became very interested and was then asking questions out of interest not judgement.

Another point to make is that clothes shopping isn’t a rushed affair (not for me anyway) So I take my time, I can focus using what little sight I have left on navigating my way around. It’s not ideal and at times it doesn’t always work. But it is making the best of the situation.

For me, I prefer to shop alone for clothes, not be rushed or concerned with someone else getting bored or fed up with me. So this is how I work around it. It’s a quirk and it is following my guide dog training; which means I can’t be the only person who does this.

After all VIs shop, VIs go out alone and VIs above all else, have their own minds.

Personally I would not consider going clothes shopping using my long cane. As most clothes are hung on rails a cane could alert me to the floor being clear, but won’t alert me to the tops hanging from a rail (if the lighting isn’t right for me to see) And for this reason I do understand why some VIs prefer to shop with others.

So, I hope you have enjoyed this Mythe bust? Feel free to comment below on this subject or other myths you may have questions about.

Hybrids are great … BUT

…. When your visually impaired even good hearing wouldn’t have helped.

This beautifully hot summer that is killing the grass and creating havoc with everyone’s sleep is also creating issues for us guide dog owners, I am seeing friends arrive at work for 6am and getting taxis home as they must have their dogs with them.  I have been taking Fizz out early morning or late evening.

But I still have things to do.  Appointments to attend and meetings to sit in on.

Today was one such day.

Today’s meeting was at 10am, by which time temperature was already mid-twenties, knowing that I would be travelling home again by lunch.  Fizz was left with daytime tv and a cool house (all my curtains were drawn-the neighbours must thing I am sleeping all day!)

Anyway.  With my faithful hound limited to her work, I too have been limited to how much I have been walking also ….. And it’s starting to annoy me!

So today on my way home after my meeting I decided to get off the bus earlier and walk the 25 minutes home (instead of getting a second bus)

Using my cane I am walking slower, taking more time crossing the road and ‘scanning’ my route more; which is creating eye strain issues as-well.

All was going well, I was even managing to navigate the bins left precariously after the bin-men had done their rounds.

Then before I knew what had happened I felt a sharp pain in my left thigh & hip.  The moments that followed are a bit blurred and also a time that seemed to last for too long.

I must add that I am ok.  I am after all writing my blog about this.

But today I was hit by a car.

It was low speed, the car was reversing off a driveway and as the title suggests….. it was a hybrid so at such low speed wasn’t omitting any sound.

The man driving the car was quickly by my side as I found myself falling down.  I suffered bad bruising and scratches to both my thighs (one from the car, the other from the pavement) and some soreness in my hand where I put it out to push against the car.

No lasting damage and thankfully no damage to my cane or the contents of my bag (which included my iPad) from being on the side of the impact.

Bruises will fade, grazes will heal and for now I won’t be wearing any short shorts! (Although my leg looks pretty colourful!)

But for me, my confidence has been knocked.

This evening as I headed out for another meeting I found myself fearful walking past houses with driveways.  I stopped at each and every one as if it were a road crossing.

I found myself doubting my ability to do this.

I found myself wanting to turn around and go back home….. But I didn’t.  I got the bus into town and sat in the sun with a cold glass of water, pottered about getting some shopping and found myself writing this.

Hybrid cars do have their place and I am very pro them.

However the law in the EU about them having a ‘white noise’ added doesn’t take affect on new built cars until July 2019 and retrospectively added to older models until 2021.  As detailed in many newspaper articles earlier this year.  Such as this one I have included below:

Daily Mail Article May 2018

 

Comfort zones

Prolonged hot weather and guide dogs don’t mix.  So where I have been using my cane for all ‘ESSENTIAL’ journeys and cancelling those I could, the length of this heatwave is getting rediculous now!

I can’t keep cancelling things, I can’t keep letting people down.  I can’t keep letting myself down!

Then a very such event popped up in the diary.  An event that no-one would have judged me for for not attending; but one I really wanted to go to and be part of.  So with some extra planning I didn’t let myself cancel.

I even arranged a ‘puppy sitter’ for my faithful Fizz so she would have company and I could take my time….. Also as this event saw me travelling to London it wouldn’t have been fair on her just having the neighbour pop in every few hours.

Yup, you read that right…. I went to London; more so I went to London dogless!

The event was facilitating and supporting route setting for an informal para-comp being hosted by VauxWall Bouldering Centre and Paraclimbing London.

The wall wanted to run the competition to enable abled bodied, non-sensory-Impaired climbers to gain an understanding of how someone could climb with differing abilities.  The competition was also set up so that those with impairments could try out bouldering or improve on what they were already doing.

Being a very hot day meant that London would feel EVEN HOTTER to an outsider like me.  The event was also set to take place on the very same day that The Gay Pride Parade marched on London; and if that’s wasn’t enough, it was also the day that the England Football team got into the Quarter Finals of the World Cup for the first time in decades!

So, as the title suggests ….. Who needs a comfort zone anyway?

Maybe it was the heat beginning to take its toll.  Maybe it was the chance to climb.  Maybe it was simply the fact that I felt I needed to prove to MYSELF that I could do this….. Who knows.

Anyway,  train ticket bought, journey planned and even altered so I didn’t have to tube through London with my cane. (Vauxhall is just one change at Clapham Junction-a station I have regularly used) and I even (virtually) walked the route from the station to Starbucks and then onto VauxWall via Google Streetview.

I planned to arrive early, sadly delays due to network rail engineering works and cancelled trains changed that for me.  However it did mean that I arrived ON TIME!

Selfie photograph of me sat inside VauxWall with people climbing behind me and the signage for VauxWall behind me

The climbing was great fun, even though I sustained an injury to my left hip and right knee.  Paraclimbing London and VauxWall had a brilliant turn out (despite the weather, pride and football) And I found myself only leaving 30 minutes before I had originally planned; in case there were similar issues on the way home.

It wasn’t easy to navigate major (or even minor) railway stations with my cane.  It wasn’t easy navigating where the door to Starbucks was and it most certainly wasn’t easy to navigate finding a seat (or even assistance) on the train.

But I did do it.

Big tick to me.

Although I wouldn’t do it again out of choice!

Its good to challenge yourself some times, it’s good to know that barring the odd ‘rib-jab’ my cane akills are still pretty good.

 

Panoramic photograph of the room hosting the competition in VauxWall with people stood around and some climbing

The pain of my cane

A few weeks ago my faithful Guide Dog had to temporarily hang up her harness to have a lump removed (just a ‘older age’ cyst, very routine) With her doing this, I had to dust of my long cane. I have kept up my cane skills and on occasions have used it when it has not been practical to use Vicky. However, it has been a long time since I have used it on this scale….. Even when I trained with it, my independence wasn’t what it is now, so team this a decrease in my usable sight and it has been a hard 10 days.

I managed the first few days of her being off work with doing very minimal trips out, mostly because she was very groggy from the operation, so I daren’t leave her too long at home. I then managed to time things in with when I was seeing friends who could come with me.

But there is only so many times I could do this, not to mention, wanted to do this! I was struggling with the dependancy I had on others.

So off I went alone, with only a few of the normal ‘cane jabs’ recieved from uneven paths, or missing a curb edge. These are part of ‘the norm’ any long cane user will tell you about.

On Friday, one week after her op, Vicky was delivered to a boarders, where she got to enjoy some doggy company and rest, while I went up to London to see my eye specialist and professor for a dna trial I am part of.

A trip I dislike at the best of times, but without my faithful friend I felt lost. I had a friend with me, but the concentration needed in London increases ten-fold even with a guide dog, with the cane it was horrendous. Even before I had my eyes dilated and could see even less.

Thankfully my friend drove to help ease my stress. But the concentration needed even for the much shorter walk from the car to the hospital was too much. (Thats another post though.)

By the time we left the hospital four hours later my eyes were heavily dilated and what little I usually see was much smaller and incredibly painful. At this point the cane was used purely to role infront of me and I linked in to my friend for support.

Saturday morning I headed off to collect my son from his friends house where he had been enjoying a sleep over. Hearing the bus coming up the road, I started to run, resulting in me going over the top of my cane having caught it on a drain, flying forward through the air and landing on the palms of my hands and my knee.

Ouch…… it stung, but the embarrassment was much worse, especially as it was actually the bus driver who had seen my fall and got off his bus to help me up and check me over if needed.

 

Thankfully, grazes, bruises and a damaged pride were all I suffered. I couldn’t stop, the day was getting away with me and I still had to pick up Vicky after Lawrence, so there was no time to hang about, go home or even feel sorry for myself.

It was just one of those ‘blind fails’ as I call them.

 

So on I went, enjoyed the rest of the day and soaked my wounds in a warm bath later.

Having used a long cane for some time, I am used to the odd bump. Either from me bumping into something, or a poorly laid pavement causing my cane to ‘stab’ me.

But I could not cope without it when my guide dog isn’t available. Because without either cane of dog, I could not cope on my own in the great outdoors.

I was not prepared for the bump I had on Monday on my way to college though…………

I had negotiated my local station, no problems. With the odd ankle sweep for people who thought they could nip in in front of me to cut me up. (One of the enjoyable sides of using a long cane over a guide dog!!!)

Generally as usual, people were very helpful. I was asked upon reaching the station I required, if I needed any assistance, to which I politely thanked them and said (knowing the station well) that I would be fine and headed for the stairs.

Up the stairs, across the bridge no problem, almost down the stairs on the other side when it happened.

When walking up stairs, I hold my cane upright in front of me, in the middle of my body, so that I can use it to judge the depth and height of the treat on the stair and also to be able to feel when I have reached the top step.

On the way down though, this is different. On walking down steps, having swept the ground on the initial step to find the first step down, I then hold my cane like a pencil, so that it crosses my body on a diagonal, so that the ball tip can run along each of the steps again so I can feel the depth and also feel when I reach the final step.

My cane is no more than my shoulder width while doing this, so that it is not sticking out, but enough to enable me to feel if an obstacle is in my way.

So, almost at the bottom of the staircase, I had already negotiated the 180 degree return half way down, the commuters with suitcases and bikes rushing up the stairs to get to their platforms.

When I felt someone rush past me very closely also coming down the stairs. Someone who caught the ball of my cane with their foot, causing it to move out from where it was rolling along the step edge. In the split second it took for me to recover it back to the step I had missed the bottom two steps and landed on right knee with my right hand again taking the brunt of the floor.

 

A kind women helped me up, while another bought a guard over. They were concerned and checked my hands for cuts and any sign of breaks.

I felt (yet again) very embarrassed by falling and was doing all I could not to cry or get upset in front of these strangers.

When the guard arrived, I shoe’d the helpers away. I was stood up again and just wanted to get to college and away from people.

The guard asked me how I was and what had happened, I explained that it was ‘just one of those things’ and that I was more embarrassed than anything. To which he suggested that next time I use the lift, or had assistance in the station, “after all, you are disabled and shouldn’t do these things alone.”

I think this upset me more than pain in my hands. I did all I could do, which was to thank him for his help and left the station.

 

I made it across the road before bursting into tears, I had to hear a friendly voice, so using Siri on my phone (as I always do) I called a friend….. It took a few attempts as Siri had trouble understanding a blubbering me!

My friend was fab, calmed me right down and checked that I really was ok. Even making me laugh at a silly joke.

 

By the time I got to college I was composed and ready to face the day.

I daren’t share what happened with any of my college group for fear it would set me off again.

Having managed to escape any further bruising to my knee, but having my right palm take the full brunt of it, I am now wearing a padded support on my hand and wrist to help relieve the pain that I am in and also to cushion my wrist and palm, so that I can still use my long cane and try and not put myself into a forced hibernation until my trusted guide dog is ready to return to work.

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