Me and my mate Stella

20 January 2017
Graphic of a stick person using a long cane

Our fantastic campaign supporter, Hayley based in the West Midlands has shared what a couple of days in her life are like as a long cane user. It’s often emotive and heart warming and shows the barriers that cane users face everyday getting out and about.

“Watch where you’re going” a Mum screams at me as she’s pushing a trolley and trying to control two young children “you nearly hit my children with your stick.” I so much want to apologise and educate her but she’s a busy Mum with 101 things to do.
Stella and I. Stella, that’s what I named my long cane, my friend Stella. We wait until the lady has gone and the onlookers stop looking and we enter the shop. I know the shop layout well and a lot of the people who work here but now it’s November. The extra displays have been added and sections moved around, it’s quite busy too so I leave empty handed.
That’s happened to me on more than one occasion. I get home with empty bags and the list of things I need still whirling round in my head.
The truth is, seven years on from my original long cane training, the outside word just isn’t ready for me and Stella. 
The next day
My task today is just to go for a coffee in my town and hopefully pick up a few pieces of my shopping list still in my head. 
Uneven pavements are the immediate issue I have to deal with. I step out of my front door already anxious. I have a big roller ball on the end of Stella as I was told it would glide easier over the ageing slaps. But no, Stella finds every fault and jolts to a stop. I can feel passing traffic watching me and I just want to be invisible.
I walk to the bus stop trying to look normal but then an over hanging bush slaps me in my face which of course Stella couldn’t warn me about. I mutter words like “why don’t people think of others? Why haven’t the council cut it back?” 
I reach the bus stop. There’s no one there and I stand waiting for anyone of the buses to arrive. I’d prefer the Arriva bus to arrive first as it’s a talking bus but on this route it could be anyone of four different buses. It’s a race to see which one can get through Birmingham and the mass of traffic on its journey. As a double decker approaches, I stand closer to the edge of the pavement and put out my hand. It does stop but a little away from the curb so Stella guides me down the curb and up the step onto the bus. I show my pass and he tells me to swipe it. I explain I can’t see where to swipe it so after a “tut” he does it for me and I thank him for his help.
I can’t see if there are any seats available so I stand for the journey. 
Arriving at my destination, we all tumble off the bus. 
I make my way along a cobbled Street and encounter my main enemy, the A-board. I’m sure they’re alive and move into my path. This continues all the way to the coffee shop. I encounter more A Boards, outside tables and chairs, bollards to stop cars, cars parked directly over a dropped curb, wet floor signs on slippery tiles...
Most people don’t see Stella and if they do, they’re quick to pass me and hurdle over Stella.  

The difference support makes

I make it to the coffee shop. I must look like I’ve been through the most horrific ordeal. A lovely member of staff guides me to a table and takes my order and payment. Although this is a chain of coffee shops, most of the staff know me so provide some assistance. I appreciate it so much.  
I start to think of my list again. I end up talking myself out of needing any of the items and decide to head home, I’m exhausted. I think I’ll just shop online and have it delivered or wait for a friend to be free for the shopping.
That will be my only outing for the week, or longer.