For years I've been trying to figure out a good design for a white cane system that can be used by blind people in wheelchairs, so we have our hands free for doing other stuff. Yeah, I know there may not be many of us out there, but there are definitely more of us than you might think. In my power wheelchair I use one hand to control the joystick and the other to sweep my cane back and forth, and I wanted an alternative to my standard white cane because my hand gets numb from constantly sweeping the cane. I'd also like to use a manual chair (if I can ever get the funding) so I can get more arm exercise by pushing myself in the chair, and I'd need both hands free to do this. Well, I finally came up with a design I thought would work, and brought my design to Tetra to see if someone could make it for me. One of our volunteers did just that, and he did a great job! He even made a few improvements to my design where I went wrong, and got some parts donated.
I just got the finished product Wednesday night. After putting the red and white reflective tape on it (so people will hopefully recognize it as a cane for blind people), and tinkering with it a little, it was ready for a full trial run. It worked pretty good, but there were still a few kinks to work out. I thought and tinkered some more, and gave it another try. Even better, but still a couple problems. A neighbor helped me fix one problem, and I fixed another one. Now it's almost perfect, and ready to go again! Whoo-hoo!
I don't have any pictures to put here, but basically the cane system is made of two upside-down T shapes connected together at the bottom. The vertical tubes of the T's sit on my seat and lay against the outside of each leg. The horizontal tubes (or what would be the tops of the T's) have wheels and roll along the ground a few feet in front of me, across the width of my chair. The system lets me feel what's coming up ahead of me (obstacles, curbs, steps, changes in ground texture, etc.) through the vibrations that travel up the tubing from the ground, while leaving my hands free for other stuff. It is pretty noisy, but I hope it won't bother people too much. In fact, the noise actually seems to warn people that I'm coming so they get out of the way faster.
Anyway, I'm hoping that once I can put the finishing touch on this baby it'll work perfectly for me, and that a device like mine will help other people like me too.