Question: I've heard of white canes, but I wasn't sure what they were or how they are used. Could you tell me more about them?
Answer: Yes, white canes are like walking canes because they offer mobility assistance to people with disabilities, but they are unique because they are intended for use by individuals with visual impairments rather than individuals with muscular or skeletal impairments, as most canes are.
Those who are blind or severely visually impaired navigate the world around them using white canes. These canes are generally longer than support canes and have a soft rubber tip on the end that glides along the ground, giving the cane's user an idea of what the ground is like a few steps ahead and if any obstacles are in his or her path. The cane's color is intended to identify the user as being an individual with a visual impairment and when carrying a white cane, a user is afforded right-of-way in roadways. The white color was originally implemented for use by people who were blind or visually disabled because the color is easier to for motorists and other pedestrians to see against dark pavement, making mobility safer for the cane's user.
Because white canes are long, in order to stretch from the user's waist down to the ground and a couple feet ahead into the user's path, they are often cumbersome when not being used as a guide-when riding on a bus or sitting in a meeting, for example. For this reason, white canes that can be folded down into a more compact size are a popular choice. When properly designed, folding white canes are just as functional as their less compact counterparts and offer a huge benefit to the user in terms of accessibility and convenience.
If you see someone with a white cane, it is courteous to move out of their path-they cannot see you, or might not be able to see you until they are very close to you. Similarly, when you are driving, be alert and remember that people carrying white canes cannot see your car coming and have the right away as pedestrians.