The Genesis of Freedom and Empowerment
I have always been an avid adventure seeker. A former pilot, SCUBA instructor, and wildland firefighter, I lived my pre vision-loss days to the max.
When my vision began to noticeably deteriorate, I had to let things go: career, driving, and activities that require whole vision. It became clear to me that there are just some things that I will not let go of. One of those things is hiking. I moved to the beautiful Red Rocks of Sedona where hiking daily is my life.
The more my vision deteriorated the harder navigating the rugged terrain of Sedona became. I adapted as best I could, but I needed more.
Being who I am- an inventor and problem solver at heart, I embraced the task and got to work in my workshop. I purchased a wide variety of traditional hiking poles, took them apart and re-engineered them.
The first model, “the Mark One”
It was cheap, carbon and light. It was a good stepping off place. I destroyed the ski-pole grip and added a 16” foam grip surface. It had the flip locks that I liked but I was not so thrilled with the telescoping nature of how it collapsed.
I brought it out to the trails. It was frustrating as I had not yet addressed the tip. After testing many types of tips, I answered that issue with the rolling ball tip- it worked the best for what I needed.
The Mark 1 was light, and it met my needs, but it could be better.
The Mark 2 was my next version: the body was aluminum, the lock between sections was an internal twisting lock. This was an improvement in strength and was successful enough. For me.
When I introduced this version to a group of blind hikers, I quickly became aware that it was not blind friendly. Telescoping canes are difficult for a blind person to extend. The sections are easily separated and are challenging to reconnect- the traditional mobility cane unfolds and effortlessly snaps into place. It didn’t look like a traditional red and white mobility cane- we needed to have a way of letting others see us and identify us as blind or low vision.
The group that came hiking with me taught me many things as we were all test driving the Mark 2. While it excelled at supporting everyone on the rocky terrain, I noticed those who were of smaller stature were struggling with the length of the cane. The twist locks were constantly slipping, making the hike more challenging than I liked to see.
This is when I received the brilliant vision of the adjustable handle!
I went back to the drawing board with all this new data and did a complete overhaul! I wanted this cane to be durable, sturdy and user friendly for all.
I chose titanium for its lightweight strength; I added the adjustable foam grip handle and re-engineered the folding mechanism to accommodate the adjustable handle. This prototype cane now feels as familiar as our tried-and-true mobility canes that we have become accustomed to with one startling difference: its ability to bear weight and support the user.
I was happy with all the changes I made to the latest version, the Mark 3, and decided it was time to mass produce and get them into the hands of my community.
We went through the process with the factory through trial and error and several iterations. We streamlined the folding mechanism and redesigned the joint using stainless steel for strength for lateral load bearing applications.
Awarewolf Gear’s All Terrain Cane is my dream come true for myself and my community who want to remain active, adventurous, empowered, confident and on the move!