During a summer orientation and mobility lesson for one young fifth grader, I decided she was ready to start working on crossing lighted intersections. This young lady lived in a small town where everyone knew her. Her mother even worked a few blocks away from where we were going to practice. The sidewalks were nice with strong curbs. Curb cuts for wheelchairs were not directly in the line for crossing straight so she had a solid step down when she decided to cross. My student used a folding white cane with a straight tip and was a strong confident traveler. We practiced a few times together and then she was ready for me to step a pace back and let her give it a go. This was a small town, so traffic was light, and people in cars would even occasionally shout out my student’s name in hello. She waited at the edge of the sidewalk, cane tip slightly over the edge, into the street. The student waited, listening to the traffic, and then her cane…..disappeared!
Now I know what you are thinking. How could her cane just disappear? No one came around the corner and grabbed it. A passing car did not brush it out of her hands. My student simply let go. This young lady would occasionally bounce her cane in her hand. She would encircle the grip and bounce the tip ever so slightly when she was waiting for something. She thought nothing of this while waiting at the corner to cross the street. What she did not know, is that there are sometimes manholes on the edge of street curbs. These manholes have large round covers which are perforated with small holes. Her aim during one drop of the cane was so perfect the cane tip entered the hole in the manhole cover and slipped through her fingers and straight down into the hole. So, one minute she was preparing to cross an intersection, and the next she was without her cane.
I held her shoulder and let her know what happened. Two gentlemen, who had been watching us practice crossing the street, came over to us. They worked together to lift the manhole and reach in to rescue the cane. Mystery solved and my student got firsthand knowledge of manhole covers!