Maddy Atkins, 12, from Raymond Terrace says that people’s reactions to her mode of getting around have been awkward, over-the-top and even rude.
Maddy started using a white cane, differentiated from other canes by the white ball on its tip, 18 months ago due to deteriorating eyesight. She had to change schools because of the bullying.
“My friends are really good now,” she said.
“I like Star Wars, and my thing is that I am like Mace Windu because he has a purple lightsaber and I have a purple cane.”
Sam, 18, from Cessnock is legally blind and has been using the tool “all” his life.
“Most cane users are independent,” Sam said.
The pair were part of a group of young people with sight loss who headed to the Hunter Wetlands on Tuesday to test the limits of what they can do with a cane in hand. The day, organised by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, was held in the lead-up to International White Cane Day on October 15.
“In a wetlands centre there’s uneven ground, there’s not necessarily smooth footpaths… so they’ve got to have skills,” Fiona Ryan, a mobility specialist at Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, said.
While a lot of training goes into developing independent mobility, Ms Ryan said, the cane’s benefit depends on whether the user can “feel good” about taking it out in public.
“It’s about accepting the cane and feeling confident that the cane is going to be accepted by others,” she said.
Maddy said you can support cane users by not interrupting their journey unnecessarily.
“You can ask if they need help nicely, or you can leave them alone,” she said.