When I walk down Penrith’s High Street on almost a daily basis, I’m pretty confident I won’t walk into trolleys, smash into café tables or bump into poles – after all they’re pretty obvious things to see, right?
Well, I managed to do all three of those things when I stepped into the shoes of a visually impaired person on Tuesday.
With the help of Jane Bryce, a vision itinerant with Guide Dogs NSW, I was blindfolded and walked down High Street using a cane.
While I did manage to use a pedestrian crossing and cross at traffic lights, it wasn’t without difficulty – I had to really concentrate on my hearing to know I wasn’t walking into the path of an oncoming car.
While I did have Jane guiding me at times, it was actually the cane that was a godsend; it made me aware of the buildings around me and the objects in front of me, even if I did crash into a few of them.
Tomorrow (Saturday, October 15) marks the 90th anniversary of International White Cane Day, and the team at Guide Dogs NSW are urging locals to think about how they would get around if they were visually impaired.
“The long cane plays a critical role in providing safe, agile foot travel as it detects objects and changing surfaces,” said Dr Graeme White, CEO of Guide Dogs.
“There are now different kinds of canes to suit each person’s travel needs and over the past 10 years we’ve seen increased demand for coloured canes, with requests for black to suit evening wear, football colours, candy colours for children and even gold.
“People with impaired vision lead full, active lives thanks to the development and evolution of the cane, hence the importance of International White Cane Day.”
Guide Dogs NSW is also leading the trend toward using electronic aid to complement cane usage, including a talking GPD phone software and handheld mini guides that act like the reverse warning in a car.