The white cane; Maxine's perspective

In the next article in our travel series, Maxine looks at the use and image of the white cane. As mobility and orientation aids, the cane comes under 3 main categories; symbol, guide and long cane. The name white cane is symbolic in the sense that this is the main colour that has traditionally denoted these aids as ones for visually impaired people (red added to the cane means that the owner has a dual hearing and visual impairment). However, as Maxine mentions at the end of her article, canes now come in a whole spectrum of colours.

Over to you Maxine.

THE WHITE CANE; by Maxine ploughden

I was unaware until a few weeks ago, that there was an international white cane day. I have heard it been called many names for example …. white stick, walking aid, visual aid and mobility stick. Some people have personal names for their canes. (I know and I am not judging)

I was speaking to a friend who is also visually impaired, let’s call him Marc (Not his real name). Marc informed me that he called his cane a magic stick. I have to admit that this was the first time, that I heard the white cane describe as magical.

I asked Marc “Why did he call it that “? He gave me the following reasons. ….

  • People move out of your way when they see the cane.
  • You can get a seat on public transport (first class on trains without having to buy a 1st Class ticket.)
  • People can be very helpful.

That’s all he could come up with. If anyone else has anymore examples, please let me know. I will pass them on.

Well I had to admit that sometimes these situations do happen. But as being for magical, that through my own experiences, I would have to disagree with these examples.

I have found that when I have been in a café. I have order a coffee and something to eat inside. I have been given the tray. Despite standing with my white cane. I have had to explain “that I am visually impaired and would it possible if someone could carry a tray for me to a table? On other occasions in some establishments, I have asked what do they have? Only to be told “that the menu is up on the wall “or time of the next train is up on the board. “

Having a white cane does not always automatically guarantee you a seat or sit in the priority seat. I have noticed people look at you, then look away. I suppose they are waiting for someone else to give up their seat or pretend they have not seen you.

Sometimes when I’m moving down a street, some people tend to jump over my cane Instead of walking around me. I had had people literally jump over my cane like they are attempting a hurdle event at the Olympics. I have had thoughts of lifting my cane.   Hoping that the person will learn or understand the fatal results of their actions. However, the thought of being charged with assault has deterred me from carrying out this action.

Since I started to use a cane, (2 years ago) my life has not changed dramatically. The white cane has been useful. It has helped me to navigate stairs and I have avoided tripping on pavements. Yes, the cane is useful and I would not be without it. The cane is practical and enables some people with their independence . For me the white cane is more for other people to recognise that I have a visual impairment.

The white cane may be internationally recognised but it now comes in different colours. Although the traditional colour has been white, the future is indeed more of a spectrum of colours for this most valuable mobility aid.


Click on the image to view the larger version.