White Cane Chronicles

Most people who are blind or partially sighted are introduced to the white cane at some point in their lives. At first, many of us are hesitant and may feel shame traveling with a visible mobility aid, but we soon realize that this object is not a material device but instead an extension of our arm.

The first full week in February is known as “White Cane Week,” created to provide awareness about canes and independence that can be achieved as a blind person. Thus, in the spirit of this week, I will be discussing my experience with two different types of mobility canes.

Image of a Ambutech model of white cane, half folded up.Throughout my life, I have experience with both what I will refer to as the “NFB” Cane and the “Ambutech” Cane. I am using these names to differentiate as these words are written on each. The Ambutech cane can be bought either as a rigid design or folding/telescopic. These canes are constructed out of graphite, aluminum, or fiberglass, and now are even available in a variety of different colours. The NFB canes are available in the same make of styles, but the most common one used by many is the rigid type which can be purchased for free. Even though to my knowledge these canes are not available in Image of a NFB style of white cane showing the way in which its telescoping segments shorten the cane.different colours, the design is most certainly a sleek one as they are constructed using fiber glass and carbon glass. For most of my life, I used an Ambutech cane of a folding design which was red and white. On my graduation I was gifted a Ambutech cane with a blue handle and section, but it still maintains the symbolistic white and red on its lower part. The Ambutech cane also supports a variety of tips to meet a diverse array of needs, whereas in my experience you can only use one stile of tip on an NFB cane. The Ambutech style also contains a flat side on their handles where one places their index finger which is helpful when sweeping back and forth. Contrary to this, the NFB model does not have a flat section on their handle, as the belief is that one may break their finger if the cane was caught abruptly.

Additionally, the method in which one uses this cane is known as “open palm”, where the opening and closing of the palm moves the cane back and forth. I personally have never mastered this technique. However, the NFB canes are remarkably light which I highly appreciate as the Ambutech canes can appear bulky or heavy. Moreover, both styles of canes come in various lengths, but the recommendations given to me regarding the Ambutech cane have been for the cane to reach up to my armpit, whereas the NFB canes can be more customizable in length as they can come up anywhere from your chin to your nose. I find that to be quite valuable, especially if one is a quick walker such as myself.

Each cane comes with their own pros and cons. I love both for different reasons. I appreciate the Ambutech as that is what I was raised with, while the NFB I like as that is one that I enjoy using more of now. I believe that one should choose the cane that works the best for them as it is much like picking out a car. A cane is something one will use almost every single day, so it makes sense that it should be one that is the most compatible for you. I have had many professionals and fellow cane user’s adamant on the style and length of cane I should use, but one cane and length may not work for all users. So, during this White Cane Week, celebrate the options that have become available to us as cane users and walk with your cane swishing proudly. I am thankful to my many white cane chronicles, and my horizontal windshield wiper swishing the window of ground clear, so I can march on confidently.

by Harjinder Saran (Jinnie)