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White cane

From Academic Kids

Many people who are blind or visually impaired use the white cane both as a mobility tool, and as a courtesy to others. Not all modern white canes are designed to fulfill the same primary function, however: There are at least four different varieties of this tool, each serving a slightly different need.

Cane Types

  • The Long Cane: This "traditional" white cane is designed primarily as a mobility tool used to feel obstacles in the path of a user. Cane length depends upon the height of a user, and traditionally extends from the floor to the user's sternum. Some organizers favour the use of much longer canes.
  • The "Kiddie" Cane: This version works in the same way as an adult's long cane, but is designed for use by children.
  • The Identification Cane: 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 is more limited as a mobility tool.
  • The Support Cane: 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.

Mobility canes are often made from aluminium, graphite-reinforced plastic or other fibre-reinforced plastic, and can come with a wide variety of tips depending upon user preference.

History

Blind people have used canes as mobility tools for centuries, but it was not until after World War I that the white cane was introduced.

In 1921 James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol who became blind after an accident, was feeling uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home so painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible.

In 1931 in France, Guilly d'Herbemont launched a national white stick movement for blind people.

In the USA, the introduction of the white cane is attributed to the Lions Clubs International. In 1930, a Lions Club member watched as a man who was blind attempted to cross the street with a black cane that was barely visible to motorists against the dark pavement. The Lions decided to paint the cane white to make it more visible. In 1931, Lions Clubs International began a programme promoting the use of white canes for people who are blind.

The first special White Cane Ordinance was passed in December 1930 in Peoria, Illinois. It granted blind pedestrians protections and the right-of-way while carrying a white cane.

On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution of the Congress, HR 753, was signed into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as "White Cane Safety Day". President Lyndon Johnson was the first to make this proclamation.

Canes Around the World

While the white cane is commonly accepted as a "symbol of blindness", different countries still have different rules concerning what constitutes a "cane for the blind".

In the United Kingdom, for example, the white cane is recognised as being used by visually impaired persons; with two red bands added it indicates that the user is also deaf.

In North America, on the other hand, white canes with or without red tips (which are used for greater visibility) are carried to signify blindness.ja:白杖

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