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Editor's Note: Marcia Cummings is National Secretary of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians and lives in Toronto, Ontario. This piece is her submission to the End Exclusion project:

My pet peeve, as I travel this city, is not one of the many physical obstacles that I may encounter along the way, such as signs, posts, trees, etc. It is, instead, the attitude shared by many inhabitants that makes them see a white cane and immediately assume the person holding it has no brains, no ability, and no individual human rights. This attitude, instead of diminishing over the years, seems to be more and more prevalent, and my patience seems, conversely, to be growing less and less present as I grow older. This makes for a volatile situation, as you can well imagine!

The first thing many people assume, when they see a white cane in my hand, is that I have no brains. This means, of course, that I can't possibly know where I'm going, how to get there, or even how to use devices such as stairs, escalators, doors, etc. They ask questions like "Are you okay?", "Do you need help?", "Do you want the escalator?" (this last as I'm heading straight for it!), or they proceed to point out things like the stairs, escalators, etc., as if there is no possible way I'd know they existed without their intervention.

And that's just the problem--by questioning my ability, they are insinuating I have none.

I'd like to say this has no effect on me, but I'd be lying. If it happened only once in a while, I could ignore it. However, it is a daily occurrence, and it has a cumulative effect on my self-esteem. Add to this the groping and grabbing that usually precedes any of these questions, and you may be able to understand my need to vent!

And venting I did, in the form of the following poem:

The Second

Please, give me back the second!

The second it takes to hear the traffic move at the beginning of a cycle--why should I trust you more than traffic patterns?

The second it takes to hear where the nearest subway door is--yes, I can hear them open and would rather make my own choice!

The second it takes to verify the direction of an escalator--there is a convenient way to do this--it's not rocket science!

The second it takes to find the beginning of a staircase--that's what my white cane is for!

The second it takes to turn around after passing that landmark--then again, maybe I was enjoying the walk!

The second it takes to find the door--it's often easier if I open my own doors--then I know where the door actually is!

The second it takes to avoid your groping hands--I often wish I could return the favour and grope you, too!

The second it takes to avoid the probing questions--just why do you need to know where I am going?

The second it takes to be independent--unless that's too much to ask?

Venting done!