October 15th – White Cane Day

The white long cane is used by people who are blind or visually impaired to help detect obstacles, tripping hazards and other environmental details. Using a white cane helps them confidently navigate to work, around town, and anywhere they travel. If you see a person with a white cane, remember that you can see them, but they probably can’t see you.

October 15th is set aside each year by the government to recognize the independence and skill of those who use white canes.

White Cane Safety Day was first signed into law in 1964, allowing President Lyndon B Johnson to declare October 15th as white cane day in an effort to raise awareness of who use the white cane, and what it means. President Barack Obama declared it to also be Blind Americans Equality Day in 2011.

People learn how to use the white cane during orientation and mobility training, which is also required in order to apply for a guide dog.

Bottom section of a white cane extended forward the tip above the above the pavement, in the background a faded view of a person’s jeans and sneakers.
A women in shorts walking down a cobblestone path with a white cane in front of her in motion.

The are 3 types of white canes. The standard mobility cane for navigation. The support cane for people with visual impairments and mobility issues. The ID cane, a small, foldable cane used by those with partial sight to let others know they are visually impaired.

There are high-tech models of the white cane that are equipped with ultrasonic devices that detect obstacles up to 9 feet away. The vibrations in the cane’s handle help warn the user of potential hazards in their path.

White canes can weigh as little as 7 ounces and are typically made from aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber.

White canes are white because of George A. Bonham watched a person who was blind attempt to cross a street with a black cane and noted that motorists couldn’t see it. Bonham proposed painting the cane white with a red stripe would make it more noticeable and safe for those using them.

The standard method of using a white cane is called the ‘Hoover Method’. The technique requires holding the long cane in the center of your body and swinging it back and forth to detect obstacles.

Only 2%-8% of those who are visually impaired use a white cane while the rest use their remaining usable vision, a guide dog, or a sighted guide.

Orientation & Mobility specialists teach white cane technique to people that are blind. Certification to become an instructor takes at least 120 hours being blindfolded and navigating with a white cane.

A person walking towards forward on pavement in jeans and gray shoes with a white cane extended in front of them on the edge of the pavement and the grass on the left.

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