Guest Author - Dean Ingalls
A list of helpful tips to guide you through the process of choosing a white cane appropriate for your life style.
Items to consider when choosing a white cane:
1. What material was used to construct the cane – carbon fiber, aluminum or a PVC plastic? The material from which the cane is made determines the durability, weight and effectiveness of the cane.
2. What length should the cane be for your height – a good rule to follow is the top of the cane should reach a level equal to the tip of your nose. I am 5 feet 8 inches or 68 inches and use a cane 64 inches or 5 feet 4 inches long.
3. You should consider the weight of the cane especially if you do a lot of traveling – a heavy cane made of aluminum places a great deal of strain on the hand, wrist, arm and shoulder.
**A person learning to use a white cane should consider a straight cane(a cane that does not fold.) as a training cane. I used a straight cane when I attended a training center while learning to live as a blind person.
4. You should consider the type of tip the cane uses. Does the cane have a roller ball or metal tip? The ease of tip replacement and cost should be considered before purchasing a white cane. A roller ball tip is expensive (approximately ten dollars) but is easier to replace. A metal tip is cheaper (one to one dollar and fifty cents for several in a package) but requires hand and arm strength to replace. A roller ball tip would last longer than a metal tip when the cane is used for long travel periods.
5. Do you want a marked cane or one without markings? Some canes have red reflective tape near the tip of the cane, which is a safety feature when traveling at night. You can purchase canes constructed according to the White Cane Law. Most of the registered/marked canes that meet safety regulations can be purchased from any vision organization selling vision impaired products or companies such as Maxi Aids or Independent Living Aids.
6. The price of a white cane does not always reflect the effectiveness of the cane. A mid-range cane should cost between 25 to 35 dollars.
Before You Purchase A Cane:
1. Try to locate a store that sells vision-impaired equipment and go physically test the selection of canes available. A Physical test is the best way to avoid the return process of an online company or mail order catalogue.
2. Contact your state rehabilitation Department of Blind Service and ask if they can give you advice on obtaining a white cane. If you open a case, the rehab counselor will request an orientation/mobility skills review from the state instructor. The mobility instructor provides a white cane for the test, which you keep.
3. Contact any vision organization in your area. Most organizations can help you with equipment or have a trusted company where they purchase their equipment.
4. Ask your rehabilitations department if your state has a program for purchasing assistive equipment. Illinois has a program called Illinois Tech that allows a vision-impaired person to order equipment for two weeks. The process is similar to checking out a book from the library. During the two weeks, you can test the product and decide if it is appropriate for you to purchase. The loan company can give you advice on where to purchase the product. The program is a great way to test equipment without buying avoiding the hassle of returning equipment you don’t like.
5. Ask your rehab department, vision organization or local school(high school, community college or university) if they can connect you with a visually impaired person in your community that you can talk to about the type of white cane they use. I have received some great advice and information from other visually impaired people about equipment that helped avoid spending money on inappropriate products.
Editor’s note: I use a NFB Telescoping carbon fiber Cane.
I did not receive any form of compensation for writing this article.