Updated: Dec 3, 2020
The first known, dedicated wheelchair was invented in 1595 for Phillip II of Spain. By 1956, motorized wheelchairs were being mass produced. Now there are pediatric motorized wheelchairs made so that children who are three years old can operate them independently. Wheelchairs are essential for people who cannot walk. Wheelchairs replace the function of the legs with wheels. They are bulky, they do not traverse stairs, so modern architecture has been changed, by law (see the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)), to accommodate wheelchair users.
The first electric hearing aid was created in 1898. It used a carbon transmitter, so that the hearing aid could be portable. Hearing aids assist the function of the ears, by amplifying sound by taking a weak signal and using electric current to make it a strong signal. Overtime hearing aids have improved to include infant hearing aids. The earlier the child receives hearing aids, the better. It is possible to be fitted with hearing aids within the first weeks or months after birth. Although hearing loss happens in the ears, the real effect is in the brain. It is the brain that makes sense of sound. The brain regions involved in hearing need to be stimulated to develop hearing responses.
The first long cane was invented in 1945. It was made for World War II veterans with mobility visual impairment and blindness (MVI/B) who stormed into their commanding officer’s office to ask for better solution to moving about blind. They refused to believe that walking around crashing into walls was the best the US army could do for them.
They were right. Long canes replace the safety function of eyes by substituting tactile feedback.
The US Army’s solution was to re-purpose aluminum tubing, add a chair glide for a tip and a golf grip for a handle. The white cane reflexive tape completed the look. The US Army created the first ever mobility tool almost any blind adult could employ within minutes after introduction.
The cane is rod-shaped. In order to get effective, tactile path information using the rod-shaped cane; the user holds it in the hand and sweeps it back and forth, one step, one swipe. While most adults can learn to swing a cane in a rhythmic fashion very easily, these canes are very challenging for children, older adults, and anyone with hand or wrist injuries including arthritis.
It typically takes less than an hour for an otherwise healthy adult to learn to sweep a long cane correctly for safe mobility. For those who are unable to rhythmically sweep a long cane for safe mobility after an hour of instruction, there is another solution, a rectangular-shaped cane. Rectangular canes are better known as an adaptive mobility devices (AMDs). The rectangular cane is an all white rectangle with black grips. The shape offers a built-in cane arc, in other words, the user simply pushes the shape ahead, no sweeping necessary. There is very little instruction needed to immediately effect safe mobility by most users.
The purpose of these canes is to provide effective information about whether the path ahead is clear or blocked by an obstacle (change in floor surface, drop-off, or object). Having this essential information enables the blind user to experience safe mobility. This tactile path information is essential to someone who cannot otherwise move about safely, due to their visual impairment.
The problem for children aged five and younger is both canes are hand-held, they require the user to intentionally use the cane correctly all the time they are walking and running. Toddlers, preschoolers and those with intellectual and motor disabilities experience great difficulty intentionally employing these canes with every step they take. When you are B/MVI, you need safe mobility all day every day, so the answer is to create other white cane options, one especially for toddlers, for example.
Pediatric belt canes have been created for infants, toddlers and preschool learners. Children this young cannot sweep the rod cane back and forth with each step and they also tend to let go of anything in their hands after a few steps. The belt cane was designed with this in mind. The children wear their canes to obtain the path information needed for safe mobility.
Babies and toddlers with MVI/B need safe mobility the same amount (or more) as adults. Some have misinterpreted toddlers with MVI/B inability to use rod and rectangular canes to mean that they don’t need tactile path information. Yet, if this were true, the incidence of independent walking delays would not be so ubiquitous.
The faulty logic of those who propose only the adult rod-cane is necessary for blind babies goes something like this, if babies who are blind needed path information they would keep holding the cane. This faulty reasoning has also led to an instructional algorithm that suggests toddlers who simply hold the cane for a few steps a few times a day will one day become effective cane users, yet the true result is that they grow up without safe mobility, they experience horrific motor delays (slow pace, poor gait, fear of moving independently).
The rod cane is only able to protect the user when used correctly.
These faulty assumptions about blind babies are causing harm, because babies are not responsible for themselves; they do not dress themselves, they do not change their diapers and they do not strap themselves into their car seats.
Young children depend on adults to keep them safe.
Blind babies are simply babies and they need adults to provide them with equipment made for babies that can help keep them safe. Pediatric belt canes employ the rectangular shape, the belt makes it easier for the blind child to keep the shape correctly positioned for optimum path information.
The belt cane is a developmentally appropriate mobility tool for toddlers with MVI/B, when worn, blind toddlers receive the benefit of tactile path preview because the base of the cane frame maintains contact with the floor two steps ahead of the intended path. Toddlers with MVI/B cannot forget their belt canes because the top of the frame is connected by magnets to a belt that is worn about their waists
The pediatric belt cane is a mobility tool that enables babies with MVI/B to safely experience the freedom to explore independently. Like a wheelchair, some people find Safe Toddles’ pediatric belt canes to be bulky and tricky to use when going upstairs. But also like a wheelchair, to the user, the advantage of wearing their belt canes outweighs any minor inconvenience.
The belt cane stays two steps ahead of the wearer and provides consistent tactile path information. Babies and toddlers with MVI/B learn to depend on their belt canes. The pediatric cane allows them to build confidence in themselves as they explore independently without direct bodily collisions.
Although vision loss happens in the eyes, the real effect is in the brain.
The brain must be stimulated to develop, but bodily collisions are the wrong type of stimulation. The brain does not learn well when it is worried about the next bodily collision. The belt cane allows the brain to anticipate obstacles and to make sense of sensory information that arrives in a less jarring manner. When babies move about wearing their belt canes they learn about space and time. They are also allowed to decide what they reach out to touch and explore with their hands, and what they rather bang with their cane frame.
Babies with MVI/B are able to make sense of tactile path information in a way sighted children would not be able to do and do not need to do. Pediatric belt canes are devices that help blind babies to achieve what they’re capable of achieving using the abilities they have.
Independent walking is fundamental to learning. The onset of independent walking triggers immediate, significant acceleration in language growth; a pattern that is stable and is evidenced across cultures. Infants’ walking experience significantly predicts both receptive and expressive language growth with walking infants having significantly larger vocabularies than their age‐matched peers who are not yet walking.
It is unfair to expect blind toddlers to wait until they are able to use rod canes for safe mobility, like car seats and drawer locks; safety devices need to be made for them. That’s what the Safe Toddles’ pediatric belt cane has succeeded in doing.