When individuals with vision loss begin finding it difficult to see a path or drop off, it’s time to start thinking about using a white cane. The white cane is just one of the many helpful tools used by people who are partially sighted to assist with mobility and safety. In fact, a quality white cane not only helps to check for objects in an individual’s path, it is also known world-wide and signifies to others that the user is visually impaired.
However, white canes are not all the same. In fact, white canes can come in different styles and lengths depending on preference. Further, there are unique rubber tips that can attach to the canes differently depending on a user’s inclination. Thus, it is important for a user to take the time to determine what they want out of their cane; whether it’s primarily identification, support or sheer length.
Identification cane: This type of cane does not necessarily aid your mobility. It does, however, let others know that you have a visual impairment. Often, an identification cane user’s visual condition is not very severe and a guide cane isn’t necessary.
Long cane: It’s best to choose a long cane if the user is looking to use a sweeping motion on the floor in front of them to identify space. A long cane provides the user with a good status of the terrain ahead and other obstacles and is more of a ‘probing’ device.
Support cane: Support canes are designed to be lightweight and have the ability to be folded or collapsed to fit seamlessly into a backpack or car, for example. Support canes are typically much stronger and sturdier than other canes. They also have tips that grip the floor tightly and lessen the chances of sliding. Those who are elderly or have trouble walking should consider using a support cane.
Determining preferable length, colour and tip is imperative when selecting a guide cane. But remember; do not use a white cane without mobility training. Training is important for safety reasons and can teach a user everything he or she needs to know to stay safe while using it. A low vision specialist can help a great deal with this step.
Indeed, learning how to properly use a white cane can help make the world a safer place for those with (and without) low vision. This ‘obstacle detector’ can help negotiate an appropriate route and count landmarks—like bus stops or stop signs, for example. Of course, many individuals with vision loss prefer guide dogs. Guide dogs act as ‘obstacle avoiders’ and help lead individuals around obstacles and prompt them to stop- like at stairs, for example. Though both methods -white cane and guide dog- make for safe and efficient travel, at the end of the day the choice is yours. But if you’re unsure, many agree that the white cane is a great place to start!
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