I’m Darren and I work in the Technology Services team at Thomas Pocklington Trust.
From the perspective of a blind person with a professional interest in the field of technology, I cannot overemphasise the positive impact that using a white cane has brought to my life. At a time when driverless cars, automated recognition apps and a range of accessible navigation solutions are emerging, it really is hard to overlook the importance of perhaps the most revolutionary invention enhancing independent living for the blind and partially sighted people of the twentieth century.
A bit more about me – I have been blind since birth due to retinopathy of prematurity. I have therefore grown up with white canes – I began my mobility training with symbol canes, though this was short lived as they apparently don’t take well to being used as sand castle flagpoles! Long canes by contrast, are better equipped to withstand the punishment they’ll experience on our busy city streets, so it wasn’t long before a long cane became the most essential mobility tool in my possession.I’ve always loved getting out and about, and have brought my long cane with me for about 99 percent of my adventures over the past twenty years. Whether traversing our beloved capital or trekking through the Himalayas, my white cane has always been one step ahead.
Of course, it is not without limitations – as a long cane user, it’s up to me to use my cane wisely for obstacle avoidance. This has not always been plain sailing – several of my canes have been destroyed in road accidents caused by inattentive driving or riding. Yet this also demonstrates a long cane’s greatest worth, as in each instance my cane saved me from harm. It’s also worth noting the symbolic significance of white canes – I dare say many of the countless strangers who’ve generously assisted me in my life did so after having seen my cane.
As a keen adventurer, I long for the day when an automatic computer-piloted vehicle will be on hand at my convenience to take me where I want to go. Yet even when this glorious day dawns, I will still be faced with the challenge of safely navigating the last few feet to my destination. While haptic tech may provide some knowledge of a blind person’s immediate surroundings, I suspect there will always be a need for the humble white cane.