Future Reflections          Cane Travel and Independence

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In the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), we have a saying: �We are changing what it means to be blind.� I think there is no more visible evidence of this truth than the pride and joy an unprecedented number of modern parents of blind children take in their children�s use of the long white cane. Because of the Federation�s work, the long white cane--once viewed as a symbol of the pitiful, helpless blind person--is increasingly viewed with admiration and respect as the tool which provides freedom, mobility, and independence for the blind.

But the NFB�s influence goes far beyond that of changing attitudes, incredible an accomplishment as that is. The NFB creates new cane designs, and it was the first organization to design and market kid size canes. For decades, the Federation has been stimulating and/or nourishing the development of new cane techniques and instructional approaches for adults and children. And the evidence is mounting--our canes, our approaches, and our techniques achieve superior results when implemented by instructors and parents who are grounded in the Federation philosophy of normalcy and high expectations.

The purpose of this special issue is to bring together, for the benefit of parents and teachers, a sampling of Federation and Federation influenced approaches to cane travel for children from birth through the teen years. The issue contains practical information, descriptions of specific techniques, personal stories from parents, and thoughtful philosophical discussions that probe the meaning of true independence and responsibility. We answer specific questions: Who needs a cane? What does a good cane travel or orientation and mobility program look like? What does a good O&M assessment include? When should a child get a cane? What kind of cane? What role do parents and others play in this process? What about blindfold (sleepshade) training? These and many other practical questions are addressed by material from well-known award-winning educators and authors: Dr. Fred Schroeder, Joe Cutter, Doris Willoughby, Dr. Eddie Bell, Doug Boone, Denise Mackenstadt and others. If there are inconsistencies, they are only indicators of the dynamics of evolving knowledge and experience within the Federation.

What you will not find in this issue is a discussion about Global Positioning Systems (GPS) or echolocation training. As you can see, our special issue was quickly turning into a small book. We can�t even say that we have covered all of the basics thoroughly--that�s why we included the Resources section. We urge you to buy one or more of the recommended books, DVD�s, and/or do further reading from the recommended articles list.

The issue concludes with sections on Just for Fun and Challenge for the Future. The challenge for the future--the impact of quiet cars on independent travel--is one the NFB is taking aggressive steps to address, and we invite our readers to get informed and get involved.

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