The Long White Cane

The Long White Cane

Posted on Oct.15, 2012, by , under Inspirational Stories

When I was growing up I occasionally saw people using a long white cane.  I am not sure how I came to know that the person was blind but somehow I did.  I also thought that anyone who used one on these canes was totally blind.  I now use a long white cane and I am not totally blind.  In fact, one study I read claimed that that 70% of long white cane users have some vision.  Who knew?

I find these devices to be an indispensable tool that I use every time I leave my home.  It is a simple device, really.  It is nothing more than a stick (that’s what it is called in my home) that is white and in the U.S often times has red at the bottom.  Sometimes the red is a circle.  In Europe it will sometimes have two red circles meaning that the user has both vision and hearing issues.

As you might imagine the canes come in varying lengths with different kinds of tips and handles.

Orientation and mobility (O & M) experts  have differing views as to how long the cane should be but generally agree that it should come up to your armpit at a minimum.   Long time users of white canes often find that as they purchase subsequent canes that they get longer canes as that gives them more reach/extension in front of them.  And, of course, the cane tip should be compatible with the terrain that you are working on.

White canes are also a huge benefit to others as well.  Being able to identify people that have low vision or are blind is extremely helpful in interacting with blind people and, of course, the benefit to the white cane user is enormous.

There are a variety of white canes that can easily be found online.  The reader should also know that the National Federation of the Blind has a free white cane program which you may find out about and take advantage of by going to

October 15 is “White Canes Safety Day as the result of s Congressional Resolution signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on October 6, 1964.  On that day, and every day, embrace and celebrate the long white cane.  Talk a walk!

-Dick Barbuto