[nabs-l] Cane Travel Training: Report Number 1

Arielle Silverman arielle71 at gmail.com
Wed Jun 10 17:48:59 UTC 2009

Hi Jim,

Congratulations on getting your first cane, and especially on taking
it for a test-drive on your own! It's great to see that you've already
begun feeling the confidence and ease of travel that the cane brings.
Don't worry, everyone's cane travel journey is paved with plenty of
less-than-fun experiences and blunders as we get used to the process.

I would highly recommend that you order a long NFB cane (one that's
2-4 inches shorter than you are). You can get one for free from the
NFB Website if money is an issue. It's also great that you will be
coming to convention. By all  means bring your cane and/or pick up a
long NFB cane at convention to practice. I can talk to some folks and
see if we can find someone to give you a little informal lesson on
technique and basic hotel navigation, if you are interested.

The other element to nonvisual travel besides good cane technique,
which I'm sure you already figured out, is keeping track of where you
are and where you're going. This process  is tricky for many of us at
the beginning, but is relatively easy to master with a few simple
skills. Perhaps the skill that might seem most foreign to you as
someone who used to be fully sighted is keeping track of cardinal
directions--north, east, south, and west--and using these to stay on
track. The sun is your friend--in the morning it comes from the east,
at midday it comes from the south, and in the late afternoon it comes
from the west. Try walking around outside during the day and keeping
track of which cardinal direction you're going in--and use a compass
if necessary--and then try doing it again at night when you don't have
sun cues, until you get used to it. Listening to what side the traffic
is on and counting how many blocks you've walked  is also part of
it--hopefully your instructor will teach you these things if you're
proactive about it. You could maybe also talk to someone in your
affiliate, like Dan Burke or Jim Marks, about having a few extra cane
travel/orientation lessons before you see your instructor again. And
remember, getting lost is just part of the process and something all
of us have experienced--all of us have stories (some funny, others
painful!) It's awesome that you're not afraid to go out, explore and
teach yourself new things along the way.


On 6/11/09, sarah.jevnikar at utoronto.ca <sarah.jevnikar at utoronto.ca> wrote:
> hi Jim,
> Firstly, congratulations on going it alone so soon. That's really
> great, and with that attitude you'll learn quickly. Your wrist
> shouldn't hurt though, so perhaps checking with an instructor once you
> get one to ensure you're holding it right would be a good idea. Don't
> slow down just because of the cane, as long as you're not reckless you
> should be fine. don't lose faith in your instructor yet. Referring to
> her as "the worst instructor ever" probably isn't the best way to
> begin your relationship. once you have more than one instructor,
> you'll be better able to judge who's good and who's not.
> Hearing the cane can be helpful, as sometimes it can tell you if you
> need to avoid a puddle jor if you're coming to a sewer grate. You'll
> get used to the sound eventually. roller tips are louder than most, so
> if it really bothers you, you might consider geting a diferent tip. As
> for getting stuck in things, this will happen less as you develop your
> technique. This is also reduced if you slide your cane rather than tap
> it.
> As someone who has very little useable vision, I always find it
> helpful to know where I am all the time. That being said, using the
> vision you have and flashlights like you suggested makes sense for
> you. As for focussing on cane travel, remember it is an essential
> skill you must learn. As you become more comfortable with it, you'll
> focus on it less and less.
> sorry for my verbosity, but i hope this helps.
> Sarah
> Quoting Jim Reed <jim275_2 at yahoo.com>:
>> Hey all,
>> I just got through my first cane travel lesson, and I had the worst
>> O/M instructor ever, me! You see,  the VR O/M instructor came to my
>> house today, we talked for an hour, she gave me the cane and left.
>> She told me I might be able to get one lesson before the end of
>> June. And she also told me not to use the cane until I had a
>> training session. I'm sorry, but you dont give me a new tool or toy
>> and tell me not to uae or play with it. Of course I took the cane
>> for a spin. It is a 64 inch ambutech folding aluminum cane, with a
>> roller tip. To test for length, I did the test suggested by the
>> author of "Care and Feeding of the Long White Cane": I took my cane,
>>  swinging it as I normaly would, walking at a speed I normally
>> would,  and I walked straight towards a wall. The idea is to stop as
>> soon as  your cane hits the walll, and then walk to the wall.
>> Apparantly, if   the cane is the right length, you should be able to
>> take two full  steps after your cane detects
>>  an obstacle, without having your face or shin detect the obastacle.
>>  I was able to manage maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of a step between the cane
>> recognizing the wall and me running into it. I dont have the time or
>>  patience to half-ass anything, I need a longer cane.
>> My first impression of the cane: Ouch! Damn it my wrist hurts. I
>> have long legs and I walk fast. I tried maintaining  the "step left-
>>  swing right, step right-swing lef"t rythm, but fairly quickly my
>> wrist got tired and my cane swings became less frequent, thus less
>> effective. Additionally, I developed a "hot spot" on my palm; I know
>>  from plenty of hiking experience that "hot spots" turn to blisters
>> very quickly.
>> I walked 11 blocks total, to the gym and back;  some blocks had
>> minimal street light, some blocks had no light (I am totally nigh
>> blind). I felt confident and I walked fast. In between corners, the
>> cane travel was easy (althoug I did noit run into any obstacles on
>> the sidewaljk). The travel may have been a bit too easy, as I
>> allowed my cane to lead the way and my thoughts to follow and wander
>>  (much as thoughts should wander on a pointless midnight walk).
>> Anyhow, I very shortly lost track of what block I was on, however I
>> brought a flashlight with me, so I was able to easily figure out
>> where I was. Additionally, I missed 80% of the downsteps on curbs
>> that I was not able to first detect visually. That little 4 inch
>> drop just wasnt enough for me and my cane to regiser that the curb
>> was there.
>>  Despite my newness to the cane, I felt myself being able to "stride
>>  out", and it felt good to do so. I am not sure how much time the
>> cane knocked off my travel time, but what it did do was allow me to
>> feel more safe and confident traveling at night. Dispite the fact
>> that I dislike walking as a form of travel, I intend
>> to make regular night walks a part of my routine. Hop[efully, if I walk
>> enough blocks, I will run into situations that will test and expand my
>> skills.
>> I did notice that I felt much more comfortable and confident
>> "shorelining" along the non-curb side of the sidewalk. I lost
>> confidence when I felt myself nearing the curb, and I also lost
>> confidence when I was on an angled slope, such as a driveway. Oddlty
>>  enough, I instinctivly found myself following my cane: if my cane
>> dropped off the edge of the curb and rode along the street for a
>> while, I found myself angling towards the street, even though I knew
>>  I did not want to go that way, and I knew there was a rolled ankle
>> in my future if I continued that way.
>> Oh, byu the way, I've used my cane on only one trip, and I damn near
>>  broke the thing. The tip got caught in what I believe was a chain
>> link fence, and all of a sudden the cane sounder different.
>> Fortunatly, the tip of the cane had its own folding joint, and
>> apparantly the fence provided enough pressure on the joint to remove
>>  the tip from its normal position. The internal cord held, and the
>> tip retuned to its normal position, but I have the feeling that I
>> may need something as strong as an aluminum cane.
>> Other than the fact that my wrist is sore, it was a positive
>> experience, and I intend to do it again tomarrow night. It was
>> really nice to be able to walk at night, even if it was a bit loud.
>> Do they make a quiet cane? To me, it does not seem to me like the
>> cane provides any auditory feedback that can't also be detected via
>> touch, and I'd like to be able to hear myself think.
>> A couple of questions:
>> How do I better detect curbs and keep track of what street i'm on?
>> How do I stay focused on something as dull as cane travel? Since I
>> still have vision, is it ok to rely on a flashlight to check out
>> street signs? If I know that the main streets are 8th, 13th, and
>> 15th, do I really need to know that I am in between 9th and 10th, or
>>  is it ok to find out exactly where I am once I hit one of those
>> main  roads?  Is the wrist pain unavoidle until I become conditioned
>> to  using a cane? What is the absolute strongest cane material for
>> the  lightest weight? I was walking at max speed, I was walking as
>> fast  as I walk during the day, is it reasonable and safe for me to
>> expect  myself to walk that fast or should I take it down a notch?
>> Is it a  good idea for me to teach myself cane travel, or should I
>> really  wait for the O/M instructor?
>> Thanks,
>> Jim
>> "From compromise and things half done,
>> Keep me with stern and stubborn pride,
>> And when at last the fight is won,
>> ... Keep me still unsatisfied." --Louis Untermeyer
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