To celebrate International White Cane Day, I am taking my big black dog to school. I carry a headful of sage stories and a lunch box full of adaptive gizmos. And while fourth-graders listen politely to my considered wisdom, they drool over Randy and clamor for techno Show and Tell.
The color identifier gets oohs and aahs and sure beats last year’s disappointment at a school with a student dress code of white tops with black slacks. Today’s bunch wears the spectrum. One girl asks, “How many colors can it tell?” I pause, then say, “Eleven,” hoping the teacher won’t say, “Prove it.”
The iPhone draws yawns (I mean, who hasn’t seen an iPhone by now?) until I snap a photo of Randy using the TapTapSee app and the phone says, “Black Lab service dog.” I swear three kids fall out of their chairs when they hear that. The Victor Reader Stream dazzles the crowd with its versatility. The Pen Friend appeals to the students’ practical side.
I describe white canes, paratransit and braille. I talk about coping with blindness, about feeling different, about sadness and loss and acceptance. Then a girl asks if I have a vision in my mind of what things look like. So I envision sailboats on Lake Michigan and I describe the whole scene to her.
I tell them all about Randy and show how he works as a Seeing Eye dog. Then I take off Randy’s harness and invite the kids to pet him. One by one, they say howdy, while Randy wags his tail and gets in a lick or two. And the last kid in line is a little shy, so the teacher says “OK, Conrad, pat his head,” and Conrad says, “OK,” then pats my head.