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Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

Panola’s Story

Panola is a Black woman with short hair. She is wearing a mask during the COVID pandemic and wearing a brown leather jacket. She is standing with her white cane by her mailbox

Using a white cane is scary. A white cane signifies so many different things. To experienced travelers, it is a sign of independence. Freedom to travel where you want, when you want, independently.

But, to people who are just learning to accept their vision loss, they may see it as a symbol of their weakness. A signal to anyone who sees them that they would be an easy target.

This is how Panola felt. She was very hesitant to travel outside her house using a cane. She had just lost her husband and was anxious about letting all her neighbors know she was alone and blind. Anxious about what they would think of her.

But, she knew she had to start doing things on her own. She had depended upon her husband for years — never going anywhere without him. Then he became sick. She started taking the Pace bus to the hospital to visit him. And, it was the bus driver who encouraged her to learn to travel with a white cane.

When Siobhan, one of Second Sense’s Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists, asked Panola what her goals were for training, Panola said she wanted to get her mail. “I haven’t opened my mailbox in years. I don’t even know if I can find it,” Panola told Siobhan. “You’re going to find it today,” was Siobhan’s response.

With that they set off.  Walking down her drive to the curb — there are no sidewalks in her neighborhood — and walking the short distance to the group of community mailboxes. Siobhan walked behind Panola, giving her cues and assistance all along the way.

One week later, Siobhan came out for the next lesson.  She told Panola she was going to travel the same route to her mailbox with one difference. “I’m invisible,” she told Panola. “You’re going to do it by yourself.”

It was a beautiful day, and there were several people out in the neighborhood. “I wasn’t so concerned for my safety,” Panola shared. “I was more concerned about what they were thinking.”

“But I found the curb. I made it to the mailbox. I was so excited. On the return trip, it didn’t even bother me that anyone saw me.”

“It was just a trip to my mailbox. But, it was the biggest challenge I have had to face without my husband. I had to trust someone else. Someone other than my husband. And, I knew I could trust Siobhan. It is such a good feeling to know that there are still people you can trust.”