I’m speaking at the #LATISM national conference for the second year in a row- very excited about this opportunity. LATISM stands for Latinos in Social Media and it’s a wonderful group of people who are engaged in supporting each other and having an impact. I’ll be speaking on a panel about Latinos and obesity that will focus on the generation of solutions. Our families and children need healthier outcomes, and they need them NOW. I really hope that many people will attend both the conference and this panel. Register here and get 15% off with EARLYBIRD code until August 1st. Yay!
Now on to my other question! Should I bring my cane? Conferences are huge and confusing and you’re constantly navigating in unfamiliar spaces. Since I have been embracing being open about Usher Syndrome, it might be a good personal challenge for me to bring my cane with me. It would open some dialogue and connections with others in a new way. This will be my third time attending the conference, so there will be that awkward moment of “hey, you’ve seen me before but without a blind cane.” There are many repeat attendees who I already know.
One young woman is very inspirational in being open about her disability. Her name is Laurita Tellado and she has spina bifida. She’s an advocate for awareness and has a great blog. Sometimes, she’ll attend an event in a wheelchair and sometimes she won’t. Everyone loves her and interacts with her comfortably, no matter what. It’s a great example to see.
I wonder what it would be like to attend with a cane. It would be easier to navigate the space and the crowds. I don’t have enough experience with it at the moment to feel confident using it, but I am due for more training this summer. I think it takes courage to use the cane as well, since you will appear different and not everyone understands that there are degrees of vision loss other than complete blindness. I will definitely continue to think about this.
What do you think I should do?
It had been sitting on a shelf in my house for months now. I would glare at it like an evil uninvited guest. I did not request the cane, but my Helen Keller trainer had brought it. So there it sat. For a long time, I didn’t even venture to touch it. Ewww! The cane seemed to represent defeat and shame. I would be different. Everyone would look at me. How would they understand that I still retained some vision? What if they thought I was faking it? What if people I knew saw me? I was not ready.
My brother (who also has Usher Syndrome) did some training with his cane. He encouraged me to open up and try it. He showed me how to use it in my living room and we had some laughs as I “practiced.” It felt so foreign to hold it- like I wasn’t myself.
However, on Saturday, something shifted. I was running late to go downtown and meet my friends for salsa dancing. I grabbed the cane and threw it into my bag. I felt compelled to take it. In that moment, I feel like I viewed it as a tool and not a horrible reminder of my condition. I thought that perhaps I could skip the line to the club if there was one! When I got to 59th St-Columbus Circle, I pulled the cane out and tried to use it. It was an experiment for myself. I knew I wouldn’t see anyone that I knew. There weren’t that many people walking around at that time. It was a little hard to maneuver the cane over bumps in the sidewalk but I did notice that people moved out of the way. It was easy to put together but it was more difficult for me to pull the cane apart. Those magnets are definitely strong! When I got to the club, there was no line and I walked right in. It was a great night.
I felt a small victory because I decided to try the cane and it was not forced upon me. I want to make my own decisions of how to handle my Usher Syndrome. I know that now I am more comfortable asking for further training with the cane and seeing where that might take me. I don’t feel that I need to use it all the time, but it is a tool that could be helpful sometimes. It’s better to have it available than not. I do value the fact that it would help me retain my independence and safety. I will not be defeated. Catarina- 1. Usher Syndrome- 0.