Below I explain a little about white canes and their use. I also talk about my own cane “Able” and why I use him.
There are different techniques that are used with the cane to accomplish tasks such as going up or down stairs, navigating escalators, finding doorways, helping to find dropped objects, and many other things.
I do not use that tapping method you most likely think of when you think of someone using a white cane. With that method, the cane taps the spot where the next foot step will land. Giving the user important information as to what they can expect as they move forward.
Because I have a good deal of sight I hold Able at a diagonal across my lower body and let the cane skim the ground in front of me. It’s like having a fingertip on the ground that helps me know what the terrain directly in front of me feels like. Neither method, unfortunately, can give a visually impaired person any indication that they are about to walk head long into a low hanging branch.
I can move about the world without Able, because I’m only partially blind, or partially sighted, however you want to look at it. I chosen to use Able for a couple reasons.
Walking is much faster and safer when I use Able. I had gotten some remedial cane training a few years before I made using Able a habit. I fell down a short flight of stairs that were just out of my field of vision. It hurt. After my tumble, I got some great O&M (orientation and mobility) training and started to use a cane.
There are other really good reasons for me to use Able aside from less trips to the emergency room. I can use my available sight to look at the scenery and not down at my feet so much. Most important perhaps is it gives YOU information. It tells you “I’m crossing the street now and I might not see you coming”. Another plus of cane use is I don’t look drunk trying to navigate an uneven terrain…just blind.
Able is 48″ tall. Most white canes, like the one I use for mobility, extend from the floor to the users sternum. I have a collapsible cane (like a tent pole), made out of aluminum with reflective white and red tape on it. At the end of Able is what is called a marshmallow tip. It’s a hard plastic bobble that looks like, you guest it, a marshmallow, and glides over most surfaces easily.
White canes are, for the most part, a universal symbol for the sight impaired. In the UK if someone has a white cane with two red bands added, it means the user is deafblind.