A woman crossing a quiet street with a white cane and dark glasses.

The Story of My White Cane

Look out! I have a white cane and I know how to use it!

Wait a minute...this woman has already told us she does things like walk her dogs, dance, ride her bike, etc. Why does she need a white cane?

Why I use a white cane

I don’t. Yet. Slightly long story: in order to get to a nice, flat (I am not THAT crazy) section of quiet streets and biking trails where I can ride, I have to cross two, larger roads that have no signals. My desire to end up as roadkill is nil. My desire to sit in the house on beautiful spring and summer days is minimal. Since I was still a client with Blindness and Visual Services at the time, I decided I would ask for tips on getting across the road with my bike.

Three months later the O&M guy showed up with a bucket full of white canes.

Getting a white cane early

Needless to say, he was a bit nonplussed. I was not what he expected. However, after waiting three, long months for an orientation and mobility expert, I decided I was going to take advantage of having him here. What if I suddenly really needed to know cane travel? Would it take a year for him to return? Nope. Better the bird in the hand, strike while the iron is hot, all applicable cliches.

Orientation and mobility specialists

First of all, in defense of orientation and mobility people, he was not shirking his duties. Many of them work holidays and weekends. The number of O&M folks is small compared to the need. If you know anyone who is looking to get a master’s degree in something needed and rewarding, have them consider orientation and mobility.

So I got a white cane. I also got instructions on how to get across the main road, but I am not sharing that so you don’t become roadkill trying. You need to practice with someone with you.

As I said, I got my white cane from the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services. My white cane is collapsing and has a tendency to “bite.” In my time practicing, I never quite learned how to keep my fingers out of the way. I have a red, rollerball tip on it so I can just roll from side to side.

What is a white cane used for?

It is safely tucked away - uh, somewhere - for when I get to the point I need it. Am I going to use it then? Yep. White canes not only help you navigate and avoid hazards, but they are also an international signal to pedestrians and drivers to be extra cautious around you. Most pedestrians and drivers are very respectful of a white cane. Such consideration can allow a visually impaired person to continue to be more independent longer and I, for one, am all for independence!

How to get a white cane

If you cannot get your white cane from some agency like BBVS, you can still have one for free. According to their web page, the National Federation of the Blind has given away more than 64,000 white canes since the inception of their program in 2008. They have a website with an application to complete that you can find here.

They also offer instructions for traveling with a white cane in their publication "Care and Feeding of the Long White Cane: Instructions in Cane Travel for Blind People" that you can find here.

In return, you get more independence and fewer turned ankles. Pretty good deal.

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