The newly visually impaired have many emotions swirling around their brains. One of the strongest tends to be; ‘ I AM NOT GOING TO USE A WHITE STICK’.

  • I am not going to label myself or be labelled by using a white stick.
  • I am going to carry on as before.
  • I don’t need one I can see well enough to get around without one.
  • I would feel guilty using one I can still see a lot.
  • I am not sufficiently blind to use one.
  • I would make myself vulnerable by using one.

Once one of these thoughts has crystallised it can be very difficult to change it. However let us examine them the first point is they all begin with the word I, they are all based around the individuals world view of themselves. This is a selfish assumption and takes little regard for others.

My view is this introverted view of the non use of a white stick is far too insular and results in rudeness. The white stick is an instrument of good manners it makes life easier and more courteous for everybody. Interactions between people are fraught with tension at the best of times. There are unwritten codes of conduct that are observed in many different scenarios. In shops when buying things, walking down a street acknowledging strangers, acquaintances or friends, each has its own ritual of greeting and disengagement. In social places cafes, clubs, churches wherever people gather.

The point of a white stick is to help other people not directly the person with the stick. When someone has AMD they are acutely aware of it, but the rest of the population is completely unaware of it. The public have an idea of what a blind person is, they wear dark glasses all the time, they have a guide dog, and they are tapping things with a stick to get around.  None of which applies to the average AMD sufferer.

If you have AMD you walk around with little problem you aren’t going to walk into a lamppost or fall over a bench. However you can’t recognise who is sat on the bench and you can’t read prices in shops or even distinguish different packets of food or tins. The confusion and irritation caused by someone trying to cope can be reduced significantly by the judicious use of a signal cane, it is simple good manners, it is rude not to use a cane to help others as well as your self.