Guest Author - Dean Ingalls
Choosing a white cane means understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each type of cane. White canes come in three forms; straight, folding or telescoping.
Advantages and disadvantages of each type of white cane:
I. Straight cane - Advantages:
**Fiberglass or carbon graphite canes.
A. best type of cane for visually impaired individuals (first time users) learning to travel for both children and adults
B. Provides the most information/feedback of upcoming surface to a visually impaired traveler
C. Best cane for traveling long distances because cane is Durable yet lightweight
D. Uses metal tip – the cheapest form of cane tip
I. Straight cane – Disadvantages:
A. Difficult cane to use when traveling – examples; using cane in a crowded restaurant, placing cane into a car. Taxicab or airplane – unable to fold and put away
B. Cane inflexible making the cane susceptible to snapping or cracking
C. Uses metal tip that can be difficult for some individuals to replace – Note: A straight cane has a screw inserted into the end of the cane that requires a person to slip a stiff rubber material encased by metal over the head of the screw requiring considerable strength for a proper fit.
II. Folding cane – Advantages:
**Fiberglass, carbon graphite and aluminum canes
A. Best cane for active person – easier to use when entering or exiting buildings such as a restaurant, cabs or airplanes – easy to put away by folding
B. Cane works great for short travel distances
C. Durable sturdy and long lasting cane – elastic cord running through cane not easy to break
D. Cane tip available in different shapes made from hard plastic that last longer than metal tips.
II. Folding cane – Disadvantages:
A. Construction of cane uses more material resulting in a heavier cane that can cause problems for people with wrist, arm, shoulder or back issues. Cane tip is also heavier.
B. Folding process of cane takes practice and wrapping elastic cord around the folded cane requires hand strength.
C. Folded cane requires large area for storing or large bag for carrying while folded.
D. Cane tip although longer lasting is more expensive and requires effort to replace when connecting tip to elastic cord running through the length of cane.
E. Cane when unfolded becomes ridged and susceptible to snapping. I purchased an aluminum folding cane and went out to test my new cane when the tip caught in a crack in the sidewalk causing my bodyweight to push against and down onto the cane snapping the cane at one of the connection areas making it impossible to repair. I broke the cane the same day I received the cane.
III. Telescoping cane – Advantages:
A. Perfect for active traveler – easy to collapse and folds up into short length and easily placed into a backpack or hooked to belt. Very easy to put away before entering a cab or sitting down to a meal.
B. The lightweight carbon graphite material causes less stress or strain for person with wrist, arm, shoulder or back issues.
C. Cane is easy to fold up – simply tap the cane while holding the top pushing down until the cane slides into one section and pop the rubber plug into place securing the cane.
D. Provides good feedback to person concerning upcoming surface and uses the cheaper metal tip.
III. Telescoping Cane – Disadvantages:
A. Lightweight material with hollow sections makes the cane susceptible to cracking or breaking.
B. Replacing the metal tip is more difficult because securing the tip requires tapping the cane, which is also the way the cane collapses. The tip fits over the head of a screw placed into the end of the cane with pressure applied to secure the tip.
C. After continued use, the rubber plug on the cane becomes less effective at securing the cane in the folded up position.
What type of cane tips works best?
I have used metal tips, pencil tips, roller ball tips and marshmallow tips. I prefer the lightweight metal tip. My second choice is the roller tip because of the long lasting ability of the tip. My least favorite of the tips is the pencil tip because the tip is easily stuck into sidewalk cracks.
**What price should I pay for my first white cane?
Most states offer assistance for obtaining a cane for visually impaired people. Check out the Department of Human Services – Blind Services in your state or area for help in obtaining your first cane. The most expensive white cane is not always the best cane for everyone. Each person needs to consider his or her surroundings, health/physical condition and level of experience with using a white cane before making a purchase.
**My favorite white cane is a telescoping carbon graphite cane with a metal tip.