lifestyle

White Cane Day: Experiencing motherhood with vision loss

Kim is a mother of two, a wife and a teacher to the blind and visually impaired. She is also blind.

BY KIM BATTEN

For any parent of young children, the task of getting them fed, dressed and out of the house each day is trying at the best of times.

But it’s also a privilege.

Until recently, I had never taken my children to the park alone, I had never taken them to the library and I had never walked them home from day care.

My name is Kim Batten. I am a blind mother of two beautiful young children, wife to a wonderful husband and teacher to the blind and visually impaired. I am one of 500,000 Australians living with vision loss.

I grew up in a small town in the US. I was partially sighted and I knew the streets well, so I didn’t have to rely on my white cane too heavily to aid my mobility. I enjoyed an active life playing sports at school and going to university away from home in Chicago. But two months after I married my husband, my vision deteriorated rapidly and I lost my sight much sooner than I’d ever anticipated. Just a few months later, I made the nervous decision to move with my husband to Australia – a totally alien environment and one I have never and will never see for myself.

After losing my eyesight and relocating, my self-confidence plummeted. I ruled out the possibility of ever having the same independence I once enjoyed; the idea of being able to navigate myself and my children safely seemed incomprehensible.

The turning point was a visit to Guide Dogs Victoria where I mustered the courage to attend orienteering and mobility training with a white cane. The white cane training has literally changed my life and returned to me the independence I had lost.

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Few people realise the white cane is the most widely used mobility aid among people with impaired vision – around 70 percent of Guide Dog Victoria clients use a white cane. Today is International White Cane Day, an occasion to raise awareness of the importance of the white cane – seemingly such a simple tool, but I am proof of what a profound impact it can have on a person’s life.

Kim regained her independence when she learned to use a white cane.

These days I relish the thought of taking my children out every day knowing I have the ability to navigate my way safely and confidently. As it’s near impossible to push a double buggy and navigate with a cane, Guide Dogs Victoria even helped me create a pram that I can pull behind me – an addition that I simply couldn’t live without! Of course there are days when I struggle – but what mother doesn’t?

We all experience moments when the children simply do not want to get dressed, eat their dinner or go to bed. I navigate through these days like anyone else.

On this important day, I invite you to take a moment to appreciate what an incredible gift a white cane can be for the visually impaired or blind.

And if you see someone with a white cane, don’t be afraid to offer a helping hand, but give them the space to navigate safely. Just don’t bump into the cane or attempt to hurdle it when you’re rushing for a bus or train – I can safely say that is our pet hate!

For more information about Guide Dogs Victoria’s services visit their website.

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