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I Never Travel Without “Slim”—Happy White Cane Day!

Joe StrechayIn honor of White Cane Day, I figured I would tell you why I truly appreciate my white cane.

I am Joe Strechay, and I work for the American Foundation for the Blind. I am visually impaired, legally blind, blind, or however you want to describe me. I have about 2 degrees of vision or so in each eye—or so I am told.

I wanted to take the time to tell you why I appreciate my white cane, which I have nicknamed “Slim.” I chose Slim because he is a skinny fellow who travels with me all over the United States—he doesn’t take up much room or even steal part of my seat on the plane. (Don’t you hate that?) Well, “Slim” is a tool that I utilize to travel through the environment safely and efficiently. I would use jet pack for efficiency, but it lacks the safety part.

Through my job, I get the opportunity to travel and present to groups and conference attendees about employment and education—not a bad deal. However, I could not do this if I didn’t have my friend Slim. I choose to use my trusty white cane over getting a guide dog for a few reasons—all personal reasons, nothing against guide dogs (I see myself getting a guide dog down the line possibly). My cane doesn’t shed on my clothing, nor does it require food or water. My cane does require a new tip once in while, like once every 3 months or so.

I can remember traveling without a cane, which wasn’t always pretty. I can remember hitting my shin on a fire hydrant—ouch! There were two particular events that caused me to start using my cane all of the time. I was walking along on a white sidewalk in Tallahassee, FL, and I stepped off a curb. Well, the curb happened to be a four-foot drop to a lower sidewalk. Luckily, I landed on my feet and caught myself with my hands, which left me with a little sting, some scrapes, but quite scared. I think it was a few days later that I was walking on a wooden boardwalk near the beach in Panama City when I went to step on the beach, but it turned to be a three-foot drop—this also scared me. At that moment, I decided it might be time to use my cane all of the time. I started using my cane all of the time and I have never looked back.

It is amazing how good a person looks when they are a great cane traveler. I am a great cane traveler, not perfect, but pretty sweet with my white cane. A person once told me that she didn’t notice my cane because I traveled so confidently outside—I think it is the truth. People who travel efficiently and confidently don’t seem to even be using a cane. Please go out and celebrate White Cane Day in your locality! Contact your local organizations through our directory to find out what is happening in your neck of the woods.