Have Cane Will Travel

‘Chapter 13’ of something I found online suggested orientation and mobility tricks and techniques have been around for a very long time. After all, it is not like vision loss is a new thing and, if nothing else, we are an adaptable species. Images from as far back as the 13th century showed people using canes and guide dogs. They also probably used sighted guides, a strategy still taught today.

Perkins School for the Blind in England was said to have informally taught orientation and mobility in the 1880s. The Germans advanced the use of guide dogs after World War I and the Americans appear to have gotten into the game during World War II.

According to the PowerPoint, after the Battle of the Bulge in January, 1945 Valley Forge Army Hospital received 17 blinded servicemen in one day. 17 sightless GIs all delivered in one day apparently served as an impetus for somebody to do something! What they did was to establish the War Blind Program. This appears to have been the formal beginning of orientation and mobility training in America.

folding white cane

So far I have had one O&M lesson. The O&M guy brought me a white cane! I want to get across the street on my bike and he brings me a white cane????

While we were not apparently on the same page for my current needs and capacities, there remained some basic truths. 1) AMD is a progressive disease. 2) Someday I may be that impaired. 3) He is here now and when I actually need to use a white cane, it may take six months to get him back! I took the cane.

Cane fitting is something like fitting for ski poles or canoe paddles. My O&M guy said it should reach to the middle of your chest. My cane comes up to about my breastbone.

He also gave me a choice of two tips for my cane. It appears the way you travel determines which tip you should use. People who move more slowly might do better with the constant contact technique. For the constant contact technique the red, roller ball tip I was given might work better. If you move a little faster, you might want to use the standard cane tip and use the two point touch technique.

What I was given is a folding cane. It has an elastic cord inside of it. You pull on the sections and the cord allows you to straighten the cane or fold it up. My cane already ‘bit’ me so I would suggest you keep your fingers out from between the sections when you are opening or folding one of these.

There are also collapsible or telescoping canes and rigid canes.  The National Federation for the Blind (NFB) has a program through which they supply what I was told are rigid white canes free of charge. Let me repeat that.  NFB supplies white canes free of charge.

Now, I would not suggest you get a cane and go charging out the door with no training. However, I am also realistic enough to understand there are not a lot of O&M people out there and someone has to pay the ones there are. You might not be able to find anyone or get him funded.

That said, the “University of YouTube” has instructional videos on basic cane travel techniques. Get someone to watch them with you and be your ‘coach’.  Just be VERY careful. While United States laws give the right of way to persons traveling with a white cane, you can still get run down. Remember: no roadkill allowed!

written 8/5/2016

Next: Mishmash



  • Rate this
  • Summary
Current Average Ratings
Overall quality
Avg: 0/5
Applies to topic
Avg: 0/5
Helpful to me
Avg: 0/5
Have Cane Will Travel
Total Avg Rating: 0.00 out of 5 with based on 0 rating(s)
Overall quality
Applies to topic
Helpful to me

One thought on “Have Cane Will Travel”

  1. Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.

    Keep Posting:)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.