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