There are four types of white canes available.
This traditional white cane is designed primarily as a mobility tool used to detect objects in the path of the user. Cane length depends upon the height of a user, and traditionally extends from the floor to the user’s sternum.
The white support cane is designed primarily to offer physical stability to a visually impaired user. By virtue of its colour, the cane also works as a means of identification. This tool has very limited potential as a mobility device.
Identification Canes (or Symbol canes)
The ID cane is used primarily to alert others as to the bearer’s visual impairment. It is often lighter and shorter than the long cane, and has no use as a mobility tool.
This version works the same as an adult’s Long Cane but is designed for use by children.
The White Cane is recognised as being used by Vision Impaired people; if the cane has 2 red bands added, it indicates that the user is deaf-blind.
The basics of learning to walk with a White cane are:
When the left foot is forward the cane sweeps over to the right side of the person. When the right foot is forward the cane sweeps over to the left side. When walking up or down stairs the cane makes contact at all times with the ground to judge the height and width of the steps. The person then proceeds forward always with one step ahead of the other. When catching public transport the cane is used to shoreline along the vehicle to locate the doorway.
The most common techniques in using a white cane are:
DIAGONAL TECHNIQUE: The cane is held in front slightly diagonal. The tip of the cane is in contact with the ground or slightly above.
TOUCH TECHNIQUE: The cane sweeps from side to side. If the path is clear, the left foot steps forward while the cane sweeps to the right. The right foot moves forward while the cane sweeps to the left side.
CONSTANT CONTACT TECHNIQUE: The cane is held in front and sweeps from side to side. The tip is in contact with the ground to detect hazards on the pavement.
SHORELINE TECHNIQUE: The cane is used to run along the edges of footpaths, wall of buildings or fences.
Other travel aids include:
MINIGUIDE: A handheld sonar aid that gives information about obstacles above waist height by a vibration or sound alert.
GPS TREKKER/GPS TREKKER BREEZE: A handheld GPS navigational system. The device includes talking digital maps and menus to help the user pinpoint their exact location and the real-time information on their surroundings.
ULTRA CANE: Uses ultrasonic echoes called echolocation. Sending information to the user about the location of objects in front and above them.
COMPARISON TO GUIDE DOG
While a guidedog, the other major mobility aid for blind people, can interact more with the user and the environment, making them more useful in certain locations, white canes are alternatives for reasons of price, care, and in case of some people, allergies. Despite the high-profile of guide dogs, however, most blind people still use canes at least sometimes, and many still use canes entirely.
A guide dog is another option to assist vision impaired people with mobility. A suitable guide dog is chosen on the basis of its temperament and the requirements of the owner. The majority of guide dogs in Australia are Labrador’s, as they are intelligent and tolerant.
When the dogs are about twelve months old they are taken to a training centre where they are assessed on their willingness to learn and their ability to concentrate without being distracted. In the first stage of training, the dog is taught to walk straight on the left hand side and slightly ahead of the person as well as learning to stop at all kerbs.
The second stage involves the assessment of the dogs understanding of commands given. The final stage is the point where the dog is introduced to its owner and they learn to work together as a confident team. The dog should be efficient in doing such things was waiting for a command to cross the road, avoiding overhanging tree branches and other obstacles, stopping at the top and bottom of stairs, catching public transport, taking its owner to lifts and information desks and learning additional commands.
When one encounters a working guide dog, do not pat, whistle or feed the dog as it may be distracted. Other dogs should be kept well away from a working guide dog. The relationship between a blind person and their guide dog is one of trust and teamwork.
The Braille trail consists of three different patterns placed on tiles which people with visual impairment can feel through the soles of their shoes. The three patterns convey different messages and are designed to guide by touch rather than sight. The dashes pattern lets the vision impaired know the direction to walk in. A combination of curved and flat dots alerts the user to a hazard, such as stairs or intersections A curved dots only pattern indicates the starting, or ending position of the braille trail as well as any changes in direction.