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You “Cane Do” it

VISABILITY and Guide Dogs Tasmania have launched the ‘Cane Do’ campaign to raise awareness around the use of white canes by vision-impaired community members.

VisAbility and Guide Dogs Tasmania want to remind the community what they ‘Cane Do’ to lend a helping hand – “just ask us first.”

Nicole MacKillop is a third-year university student studying zoology and has used a white cane for a number of years.

“I’ve been using a cane since I was in grade six, so it’s a good mobility tool,” she said.

“But it has also meant that society has become a lot more proactive towards myself and people with assistance.”

The Cane Do campaign is designed to raise awareness not only about the right way to approach somebody who is using a white cane, but to help the public understand how to use a white cane.

For many users, using a white cane is a challenge and is similar to learning how to drive or ride a bike.

Ms MacKillop said using a white cane was something that required time and energy to learn.

“Trust comes with confidence and I still sometimes don’t trust my cane when I am out, especially going down stairs,” she said.

“It has taken me two to three years using my cane on different surfaces to be able to build confidence and trust in it.”

Ms MacKillop said using a white cane was sometimes misunderstood by overeager members of the public who tried to help when it hasn’t been needed.

“I think the classic one is being pulled across the road in the direction you don’t want to go,” she said.

“I want to say thank you for taking the initiative, but don’t do that next time please because it’s very overwhelming.

“Imagine just doing your own thing and then someone you don’t know just pulls you across the street.

“Most people have good intentions, but they don’t know how to respond to cane users.”

New research shows that the Australian public are misunderstanding how best to assist people who are blind or have vision loss.

Sixty-four per cent of people who use white canes have been grabbed or handled by a member of the public even though they didn’t ask for help.

VisAbility and Guide Dogs Tasmania chief executive officer Dr Clare Allen said the best thing you could do was be courteous and respectful.

“The most simple, effective and helpful thing you can do is directly ask a person using a white cane if they need assistance before trying to help,” she said.

“More than three quarters of clients surveyed say this is their preferred and best way members of the public can assist them.

“By grabbing a person with a white cane by the arm to help them onto public transport or across the road you can disorient them or break the concentration they are using to follow a path.”

Dr Allen said that while the majority of the time the community and their efforts to help a person with vision loss were well intentioned, there was a disconnect between knowledge and actions.

“Perhaps these misunderstandings occur because many Australians do not understand how and why a white cane is used,” she said.

“They may also not know what to do after they ask the person with vision loss if they need help.”

As a part of the Cane Do campaign launch, VisAbility and Guide Dogs Tasmania led local media through a course blindfolded and using a white cane to help others understand what it is like to be somebody who relies on this mobility tool to move about.

Caption: Hobart resident Nicole MacKillop has been using a white cane since she was in grade six.

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About the Author: Hobart Observer

The Hobart Observer is your monthly community newspaper, reaching over 24,000 homes and businesses in and around the City of Hobart. It is the product of Nicolas Turner, Justine Brazil, Ben Hope, Simon Andrews, Tobias Hinds and guest contributors, with support from advertisers.

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