Dan Shepherd, National Manager at Blind Sport New Zealand, not only values the white cane for supporting him in his mobility but also considers it as an advocacy tool.

He has just completed a six-week orientation and mobility training programme with the Blind Foundation and learnt skills and techniques to use his white cane to support his mobility. He has learnt to navigate through his community, use public transport and navigate familiar and unfamiliar routes.

Watch Dan’s story on using the white cane:

Deciding to use a white cane was a milestone for Dan. Being low vision, he had to overcome the stigma he perceived the white cane represented.

“I found out about my RP [Retinitis Pigmentosa] and that I was going blind when I was 15, and one of the biggest challenges for me was the stigma that was attached to the white cane, being someone who has some functional vision. Accepting that support has really helped my confidence in my independent mobility and in general.”

Once he learnt to embrace it, he started taking pride in the white cane’s symbolic association with the blind and low vision community.

“While its primary function is to assist my mobility, my white cane then becomes a tool for advocacy, education and awareness. As a white cane user I represent the blindness community, and have accepted a responsibility to increase awareness of sight loss. My white cane has empowered me to use my voice on behalf of the blindness community.”

For those thinking about undertaking some training with the Blind Foundation, Dan encourages them to get in touch as soon as possible.

“Mistakes are part of every learning process in life. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, find your own way and be mobile. Since starting to use my white cane I can definitely say my confidence in mobility, and advocacy, has increased.”

Would you like support with orientation and mobility? Contact us on 0800 24 33 33 or email info@blindfoundation.org.nz.

Dan Shepherd will feature in our Autumn edition of the Outlook magazine. He gives his take on navigating a shared space, where the traditional distinction between footpath and road is removed. If you would like to update your preferences for receiving the magazine, please contact us on 0800 24 33 33.