What does a mobility cane indicate?
How important are the colors? 

mobility cane


I once hated my cane and what it stood for: a loss of my independence. Here’s an excerpt from my book, Mobility Matters:

I crossed my arms. “It’s more like I’m between a rock and a hard place,” I said, my lips set in a tight line. “I don’t need to tell anyone. My cane does it for me.” I made a face. “You know that red part? I feel like I should charge through the crowd and yell, ‘Fire engine coming through!’ That’s exactly what it’s like.”

David laughed—a pleasant, relaxed sound that eased the edges of the hard bitter pit that always seemed to exist in the center of my stomach. Then he turned toward me. “All you need is a siren.”

“Woo-woo-woo.  Move over. One side or the other. Out of the way.” I imagined people racing to either side of the walkway as I barreled through with my horrid cane.

“Ha! Your siren sounds more like one in a cop car.”

I let out a long dramatic sigh. “Details, details.”

“Plug this in, will you?” He handed me the cord to the laptop. “Bet you really book down the sidewalk, too, huh?”

“I do, actually. Why do you say that?”

He concentrated on the task at hand then said, “Well, it only stands to reason. You speak fast, don’t you?”

“Yeah, that’s true.” I laughed. “Woo-woo-woo. Fire engine comin’ through.”

He cupped his hands to his mouth. “Where’s the fire? It better not be anywhere near me.” He patted down his clothes in mock fear.

“Or my brand new laptop.” I laughed “I’m sure the State would frown on that.”

The cane I rarely used suddenly caught my eye. It hung, all bright and shiny, on its nail in the kitchen. I noticed the final section with its fire-engine-red color immediately preceding the tip. It took up less than a foot of the cane.

“Hey, David,” I said, feeling more at ease than I had in awhile. “You almost done?”

It made all the difference in my outlook that I didn’t have to tell people. I had a choice. Maybe I could be a rock.


I don’t know how many people take to a cane immediately. I don’t think it’s many.  It’s more of a process for most. Maybe it depends on the point you’re at in your vision loss. I struggled to accept it since my long white cane identified me as a blind person after I had been sighted my whole life.

Here I am using the standard white cane with black hand grip and red indicator at the bottom.
Here I am using the standard white cane with black hand grip and red indicator at the bottom.

I recently entered into a discussion with some peer tutors who talked about the changing color of canes –new colors for the grips.  New Designs for canes. Be sure to check out this link to see what I mean: Custom mobility canes and aids for the blind and visually impaired _ AmbuTech

The white (some refer to it as a red and white) cane is standardized so that sighted people can quickly identify that it means a blind person is operating it.  But nowadays, the top part of the cane is starting to come in various colors.

This worries some cane users because they feel that the colors confuse people and they may not know that a blind person is on the other end of the cane. They also fear legality issues if someone is hit while using this kind of cane.  Who’s responsible? They made the point that it takes a lot of educating the public already and this would require more educating.

Others say that they hate that standard cane identification and if they have to use one, they should be able to personalize it to suit their taste and fashion.  So why not have bold and bright colors? Or party designs? Stripes?

I found the entire discussion fascinating. I was amazed from the ongoing discussion how many sighted people really don’t recognize what a cane means. Even car manufacturers don’t take cane users in consideration. When a cane user crosses a road, he or she has to listen for the sound of the car to know it’s present and when to cross the street. Nowadays, more car manufacturers are making cars that are silent as a draw to them.  This is a nightmare to a cane user! If you cross a busy intersection at the wrong time and the driver is not paying attention, a silent car is extremely hazardous to one relying on his hearing for safety.

I haven’t totally formed  an opinion. From my book excerpt, you can see how I struggled with others knowing about my vision loss. But I have moved past that so I tend toward personalization of colors and fashion. It might be fun to have one among my repertoire of canes.

But I don’t want the public to be confused as to why I use a cane or to what it means. I had one lady tell me she “liked my walking stick.” It seemed she thought I’d come straight from a hike in the mountains to her book store. I realized she simply didn’t know that it was a mobility cane. After all, I had never used one in front of her before!

What I think of when I hear 'walking stick.'
What I think of when I hear ‘walking stick.’

What do you think?

If you’re sighted, have you ever been confused as to what a cane signifies? Have you ever thought about all that it takes for a vision-impaired person to be safe among both pedestrian and automotive traffic?

If you’re vision impaired, do you like the new choice of using a cane with personalized colors? Or putting lights around it to see better at night?  


Low Vision: Colored Mobility Canes?
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22 thoughts on “Low Vision: Colored Mobility Canes?

  • June 4, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    I remember the words from your book, Amy. You struggled with using the cane so much, until at last, you accepted it. The white color sends a clear message to me. I so admire unsighted people who can brave the streets.

  • June 4, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    Ohh I never knew the significance of color in the sticks!

  • June 4, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    A clear message. That’s good Francene!
    I am considering getting a colored cane. Have to do some more research though.
    I have to catch up on your posts!
    Thanks for your input and for reading my book (You did read it, didn’t you?!! Sounds like you did!).

  • June 4, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Hi Tina,
    Yes, so many don’t. 🙂 I love teaching people about these kinds of things.
    Have a great day and thank you for your comment!

  • June 5, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Hi Amy,

    Really enjoyed this exerpt from your book! You are so inspiring my friend, thank you for sharing your awesome knowledge with those that are impaired as well as those that are not 🙂 Great post!

  • June 5, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    I’ll be more vigilant when I see unsignted people in the future due to the colour of their canes.

  • June 5, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Hi Amy – Really enjoyed this excerpt from your book and you wonderful flow with your writing style – I didn’t know the significance of colored mobility canes – excellent info and reading! Big hugs

  • June 5, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    We need to be more compassionate towards our visually impaired friends.

  • June 5, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    i try to help them when i see them especially when i notice other seem to ignorant during traffic times. but i never knew the significance of colors.

  • June 5, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    I think I would love to read your book. It always intrigues me when people overcome odds in life. I admire your indomitable spirit and you are a great inspiration! God bless you.

  • June 5, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    Considering that I was educated in one of the top public schools in New York City, and have a BA, I have never been formally educated as respects mobility canes or anything else to do with people with any other disability. True, my official education ended 41 years ago. I’ve learned through reading. But what about those who don’t seek out this knowledge? I think a lot of people don’t know, and they do want to know. This is one reason why your blog and your memoir and your public speaking are so important.

  • June 6, 2015 at 1:17 am

    Hi Joan,
    So glad you enjoyed it, Joan! 🙂

  • June 6, 2015 at 1:18 am

    Great to hear that, Nick. 😀
    And remember, they probably won’t be red and white anymore. Don’t let that throw you off! 🙂

  • June 6, 2015 at 1:19 am

    Thank you, Donna!
    I’m trying to listen to your re-broadcast on the mail list now.
    Take care!

  • June 6, 2015 at 1:23 am

    Hi Tina,
    That reminds me of a wonderful quote from Mark Twain. He once said, “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
    Thank you for your comment.

    ― Mark Twain
    tags: inspirational, kindness Read more quotes from Mark Twain

  • June 6, 2015 at 1:24 am

    Thank you for taking time to note and help others during periods of traffic.
    So glad to share this information with you!
    Hope your short story writing is going well!

  • June 6, 2015 at 1:27 am

    Hi Keesha,
    The humor sneaks up on you and catches you by surprise! It’s definitely a book about overcoming.
    We all have something to overcome, don’t we? Thank you for your kind words!

  • June 6, 2015 at 1:30 am

    Oh thank you, Alana,
    I am going to copy your words and put them in my “soft fuzzy book” one friend recently advised me to keep to turn to when I feel low and that my writing doesn’t impact others. I will see that one person thought it did. Thank you!!

  • June 6, 2015 at 4:13 am

    This is interesting to me. My daughter-in-law is visually disabled, but not to the degree that she requires a cane. Many people don’t realize she has limited sight until they see her struggling to read a form or see a picture. I think it’s the most difficult disability to deal with. I hadn’t ever thought about the electric cars. I wonder if they could design a sensor you could attach to your cane that would make a unique tone in the presence of an electric car?

  • June 6, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Adrian,
    Great to hear my post was of interest to you! There are many people who struggle with sight that people don’t know about. Sorry to hear about your daughter-in-law. See if your city has a sight center or equivalent. There are many low vision aids that will likely help her. I am scheduled to go to a low vision specialist in a few weeks. I’ll be sharing what we learn so be sure to come back and find out. I think low vision specialists are life savers! I might interview one for my Friday Friends column. Thank you so much for reading my post and taking time to comment!

  • June 7, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    Hi Amy, great article! As you may or may not know I’ve used my blue/white cane for almost a year now and I like that it’s different. I understand the concern of confusing the public but I don’t think that should be a deterrent to people who want to express their individuality. Education has been and always will be an ongoing process because those of us with vision losss are such a small segement of the population. Taking into consideration how we use our canes versus walking canes or other mobility devices, there is a significant difference that, in my opinion, should be an important factor when educating the public. ~Steph

  • June 7, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    I like the way you think, Steph. I signed up to get updates as to when ambutech makes them available. I would like to have one and also use it as a teaching aid in my outreach talks.
    Thanks for sharing your point of view, Steph. Always a pleasure to hear what you have to say.

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