One cannot understand the importance of a white cane that people with visual impairment use except when you hear testimonies from the users themselves.
To date, not a large number of people with visual impairment are able to afford a white cane.
However, as a result of advocacy by RUB, people with visual impairment in Rwanda are increasingly being provided with the white canes through support from various partners.
Ms. NIWEMUGENI Eugenie suffered from blindness due to an illness that eventually affected her until she lost her sight when she was in secondary school. After losing her sight, she explains that she avoided losing hope but continued to feel that the time will come when she will be able to see again. Only that it did not happen because she has continued to be blind.
“Before getting the white cane, I used to stay at home and wherever I wanted to go they would take me by hand. And then after, I came to the conclusion that I shouldn’t have to stay at home. That’s when I started to use a wooden stick.”
Niwemugeni says walking with a wooden stick was difficult because otherwise having it did not prevent her from walking with someone holding her hand.
“Then I was blessed and got a white cane from RUB.” She said,
“This white cane has been a great help to me. “Otherwise, when I was walking with a stick, those who saw me thought I might have been injured, and they thought maybe I had another illness and I was going to the doctor because I have fatigue, but the white cane made the difference.” She added.
In fact, Niwemugeni is one of the few people with visual impairment who have had the opportunity to get a white cane and be able to thrive.
Niwemugeni currently owns a tailoring workshop in Muhanga Town and has been able to hire three employees. “For me, RUB has helped me tremendously in getting acquainted with using the white cane, which in return, helps me in mobility and orientation.” Before receiving this white cane, I am telling
the truth, I didn’t even know the home entrance.” She said.
Usually, people with visual impairment should learn different techniques on using white canes in order to be able to navigate all the way without problems.
According to Niwemugeni, since she got a white cane, she usually travels from her place of residence to Muhanga town to do her work as usual.
“Whether it’s at the sector office, in the church or anywhere else, I get there without difficulties,” she said.
She goes on to say that at this point, people are beginning to understand the importance of the white cane because whenever they meet someone with it, they can recognize that she/he has a visual impairment.
“As soon as they see me, they tell one another, ‘Let this person pass.’ Niwemugeni testified.
Having people understand the importance of a white cane is really a step in the right direction. This is largely due to the ongoing awareness campaign by the Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) in collaboration with various partners.
“On how I use it, when I am about to cross the road, I stretch it out and cars stop, and those near me inform me that I can cross,” she said.
Mrs. Niwemugeni says that the white cane has played a lot in her living conditions.
“I was able to buy knitting machines, and now I come to work here in Muhanga town without waiting for someone to hold my hand,” she said.
Not only did the white cane help her get to her job, she explained that even in the family she is more confident because no one mocks her or disrespects her because of her visual impairment.
“We don’t have any problem in my family, they respect me and treat me well and they can’t even take and ignore my view,” she said.
This is also a big step, since before, in the Rwandan society, a person with visual impairment was often marginalized and disrespected, but as sensitization continues, people with visual impairment are more likely to be cared for and get the right they deserve in the society.
Ms. Niwemugeni asserted that for the help she receives as a visually impaired person, she commends, “RUB as a caring parent.”
“They help us, they advise us, they give us training in many ways, and now I have been able to get a white cane. That’s why I really appreciate the work of RUB. “