For Mark Whiting, it’s his white cane that has made solo overseas travel a reality.
Mark has lived with low vision and hearing loss since birth and took up using a white cane in 2012. Last year he travelled to Singapore by himself and is currently preparing for upcoming international cruise.
“It only took me 46 years but I went overseas by myself and I loved it. I’d been to Singapore before with my mother, but I’d always wanted to go somewhere on my own so I could do all the things that I wanted to do,” Mark said.
“I’ve got a cruise coming up that I’m really excited about as well and my cane will definitely make it easier when we’re off the ship for tours and that sort of thing. Really either trip wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have the cane,” he said.
Though he said his white cane has made his trips possible, Mark admitted there still was some trepidation.
“I was a little bit worried before I left for Singapore, but once I got there I was fine. There public transport system is great, which made things easy and everyone was very helpful,” he said.
“I really enjoyed myself. I had some great experiences and it was something I’d never thought I’d do on my own.”
While Mark does have some vision remaining, he noticed that he was encountering more and more challenges when it came to being out and about, which prompted him to take up the white cane.
“When I was around home I was ok, but when I wanted to go to the shops or just get out of the house I started having a few issues,” he said.
“One of the biggest things was just walking along a footpath. Because of my vision it would like it was a flat surface and I couldn’t see any cracks or bumps. I thought rather than waiting till I had a bad fall or anything like that I’d do something about it.”
After working with an Orientation & Mobility Specialist to learn the ins and outs of cane use, Mark said he soon became more comfortable being out on his own. Not only did his cane make it easier find and navigate around hazards and obstacles, he said it changed how people interacted with him.
“Even after just a couple of weeks of using it I found that I was much more confident when I was away from home, I wasn’t worrying anymore about tripping over all the time.
“The other thing is that it’s a great way to let people know that I have low vision. People recognise what the cane means and they’re more likely to take care around me or ask me if I need assistance which is good.”
While in the majority of cases Mark says people are more understanding, he does believe there needs to be some more education around what a white can means.
“Because I do have some vision left I won’t always use the cane for everything. If I’m waiting for the bus I might fold the cane up and not use it to get on and find my seat and sometimes people can be a bit confused about that.
“I’d just like to see a bit more awareness and respect around people who use a white cane. If we had that I think there’d be a lot less problems.”