Beacon Stories

Oct 15, 2020

Maeva’s Independence With Her White Cane

We’re celebrating White Cane Awareness Day with spirited 5-year-old Maeva, who is an independent explorer thanks to her white cane.

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White Cane Awareness Day is recognized on October 15th every year. For those who are blind and visually impaired, the white cane is a tool that provides the ability to move freely and safely from place to place. The mission of White Cane Day is to educate the world about how the blind and visually impaired can live and work independently and celebrate the abilities and successes achieved by blind people in a sighted world.

Today, the Foundation is celebrating White Cane Day by highlighting 5-year-old Maeva.

When Maeva has only the white cane in her hand, she walks much faster. You can tell she is more confident and not afraid to head out and explore with her cane.

Marlene, Maeva’s grandmother

Maeva lives in Delano, Minnesota, with her mom, dad, and three older brothers. She was diagnosed with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) at only six months old.

Maeva and her family got involved with the Foundation Fighting Blindness the year she was diagnosed. This year is their fifth year participating in the Twin Cities VisionWalk as team ‘Maeva’s Fight for Sight.’

“Since we have been involved with the Foundation over the last five years, it’s been amazing to see the research progress that has been made,” says Marlene, Maeva’s grandmother. “Little was known about LCA10 years ago, and now we see hope that someday there may be a cure for Maeva.”

Maeva is now five years old and has just started Kindergarten this school year. Her family would characterize her as an explorer who isn’t afraid to try new things.

“Maeva doesn’t seem to fear anything she tries,” says Marlene. “She really never shows frustration when trying to do something new, even if she has difficulty doing it.”

Maeva with her white cane

Maeva standing on a sidewalk holding her white cane.

Some of Maeva’s favorite activities include swimming, listening to music, jumping on her trampoline, and she loves to talk and play games with their Amazon Alexa.

Maeva’s supportive family has allowed her to be very independent by providing her with as many opportunities and tools that she needs. Maeva was given a white cane as soon as she started to walk, mostly for her to get used to holding it at first.

According to Braille Works, a white cane provides a child who is blind or visually impaired access to the world that they may not have otherwise and allows them to learn alternative skills to reach their maximum developmental potential. A child will gain more control over their environment as they learn to read the feedback from their cane, allowing for greater exploration, movement, and safety in their world.

Marlene recalls that Maeva didn’t understand the white cane’s purpose early on and would swing her cane around like a bat instead. But as Maeva grew older and started to understand her white cane, she now exudes more confidence walking with it and using it to navigate her surroundings.

“Being that she is only five years old, she does like to hold our hand sometimes,” says Marlene. “But when she has only the white cane in her hand, she walks much faster. You can tell she is more confident and not afraid to head out and explore with her cane.”

Maeva walking around her school with her white cane.

Maeva exploring her school hallways with her white cane.

Using a white cane has been a learning process for Maeva, but as she continues to grow older, she’s getting better at using it every day and is now enjoying greater mobility and independence.

When introducing anything new to Maeva, her family has learned to think in “her shoes” and describe the world in a way that she will understand.

“When she was younger, we would say, “Can you feel the sun on your face, Maeva?” says Marlene. “It’s all about the feel, or what she can hear or taste. Her blindness doesn’t stop her from experiencing new things.”

Maeva also knows her left versus right, so when her family is giving her directions on how to reach or walk to something, it’s easy to guide her with directional cues.

“Watching Maeva become the independent person she is has made us realize how proud and lucky we are to have her,” says Marlene. “We believe she will be able to do whatever she wants as she continues to get older. Maeva can put a smile on your face no matter what type of day it is; she’s just a joy to be around.”