Mike Bailey was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in his early 40s back in 2003.
Before developing the condition, Mike ran a successful business but gave it up because it involved lots of driving around the UK. Now, Mike is the manager at the Visual Rehabilitation Centre in Liverpool where he attended as a service user five years earlier.
Before using a symbol cane, Mike experienced lots of negative attention in public, often from people who didn’t know he had a sight condition. Without a cane, he was verbally abused in the supermarket by shoppers and wrongly accused of being drunk.
“When my Rehab Officer gave me my first symbol cane, I wasn’t ready or confident enough to face using it. I felt embarrassed and thought everyone would be looking at me.”
“I mentioned my nervousness about using a cane one day to a friend who kindly offered to take me to a shopping centre where no one knew me. I was really anxious and was dreading the day coming so I decided to just go for it by myself.
“When I left work and got the bus to my nearest town centre, my palms were sweating. I was so nervous. As I held the folded cane in my hand I imagined myself stepping off the bus and opening the cane out. I worried about other peoples’ reactions and if I’d remember to use it the way I’d been shown.
“I had my route planned; I would walk through the arcade, turn right along the High Street and cross at the pedestrian crossing to the bus stop.
“I stepped off the bus, opened my cane and started walking. I couldn’t believe it. After walking through the arcade, I hadn’t had to apologise once for bumping into people and had said “thank you” at least ten times. With my tunnel vision I could see people ahead of me moving aside to let me through. It was like the parting of the Red Sea!
“That day, I had overcome my fear of using the symbol cane. I also realised the simple power the symbol cane has in informing others about my visual impairment without me having to explain or apologise. It gave me back some of the pride and independence I felt I’d lost when I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa.”