Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Making The Idea Of Using A Cane More Appealing

The decision of using a white cane as a mobility tool is quite a tough decision for some blind or visually impaired individuals. It is part of the process of accepting that one is blind, and realizing that being seen using a cane is a sign of being independent rather than something to be embarrassed about.

The following are points that some mobility instructors and Brain Waves participants shared with us when we asked them for ideas on how to make the use of the cane more appealing for their students and clients.

1. The younger, the better...

A mobility instructor suggested trying to get the cane in people's hands as early as possible. The earlier they start using it, the more natural it will be for them, and they will learn to regard it as a part of their every day life.

2. The more, the merrier...

Another suggestion is to get students or clients to go out in pairs, or in a small group. This will make them feel more confident, as they won't be the only ones using a cane to travel. They will just be part of the group.

3. Give them a reason to use it...

A very effective way for people to want to use the cane is to try to make each class meaningful to them. During their lessons, try to take them to those places where they want, or need to go. For instance, instead of walking around the block, teach people how to get to a ballpark, a friend's house, or their favorite restaurant.

4. Let them experience...

Some instructors believe that people will choose to use a cane after showing them its benefits over personally meeting doors, and experiencing drop-offs or other obstacles.

5. Give them praise and more praise...

Give cane users positive reinforcement. Praise them a lot when they accomplish a task. Positive reinforcement raises confidence and self-esteem.

6. Encourage a positive attitude...

A positive attitude and letting the person realize that he or she is just using an aid to become more independent is important. Let them know that using a cane is the equivalent to wearing glasses, hearing aids or any other tool. The blind person's attitude will be reflected in the way other people respond to them.

7. Customize the cane to be unique and really cool...

If people get the opportunity to personalize and fix up their cane to their liking, they will be more inclined to want to use it. Here are some ideas on things that you can use to customize your cane!

For the grip:
A steering wheel cover, a golf club grip, a tennis racket grip.

For the rest of the cane:
Decals, key chains, braille name tags, neon Colors, Racing Stripes, Braille labels of fun things to do when using the cane, Bright colorful mini-stickers, reflective tape, contact tape resembling wood, camouflage or any other pattern.

A Brain Waves participant shared with us that she fixed up her cane like the American Flag after the tragedy of 9-11, and it was a hit!

Also, you may use different kinds of cane tips depending on your own travelling style.

To end this record with a fun note, below we have included the full text of an entry of one of our Brain Waves participants. She likes to "use her cane for a few amusing, and otherwise very serious reasons."


10. If you know the specific length of your cane, you can use it as an approximate measuring stick to determine the size of other objects;
9. If you put a small piece of doublesided tape on the end of the tip, you have a tool for retrieving dropped items from tight skinny spaces, e.g. from behind bookshelves for instance (I'm not kidding, this one really works, if you are careful!);
8. When walking slowly through grass, you can provide much amusement to a young kitten while gently moving your cane back and forth to find your way, as it chases and bats at the tip (yup, this one's happened to me, too!);
7. Use your cane, instead of your toes, to find the edge of the swimming pool, and to avoid a rather unexpected dive into it;
6. Make cane tracks in the sand, to be later washed away at the beach, or in the snow, as a warmer alternative to snow angels;
5. To be covered under the White Cane pedestrian laws;
4. To find unexpected curbs, steps, or bunched up sections of carpet, and avoid tripping over them;
3. To dig through snow, in order to determine where the sidewalk is, in the middle of winter;
2. To avoid those big metal poles, ouch!, between open double doors at school; and finally,
1. To have a ready explanation, and a way to minimize your embarrassment, if you accidentally walk into the wrong, tactually unlabelled restroom, if no one's around outside of it to ask!

Thanks to all who contributed to this record!

No comments:

Subscribe to receive posts via email

* indicates required

Browse Articles by Subject

Follow us on Twitter


Write for us

Your input and support in the evolution of Fred's Head are invaluable! Contact us about contributing original writing or for suggestions for updating existing articles. Email us at


The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

The products produced by the American Printing House for the Blind are instructional/teaching materials and are intended to be used by trained professionals, parents, and other adults with children who are blind and visually impaired. These materials are not intended as toys for use by children in unstructured play or in an unsupervised environment.

The information and techniques contained in Fred's Head are provided without legal consideration (free-of-charge) and are not warranted by APH to be safe or effective. All users of this service assume the risk of any injury or damage that may result from the use of the information provided.

Information in Fred's Head is not intended as a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Consult your physician before utilizing information regarding your health that may be presented on this site. Consult other professionals as appropriate for legal, financial, and related advice.

Fred's Head articles may contain links to other websites. APH is not responsible for the content of these sites.

Fred's Head articles created by APH staff are (C) copyright American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. You must request permission from APH to reprint these articles. Email to request permission.

Any submissions to Fred's Head should be free of copyright restrictions and should be the intellectual property of the submitter. By submitting information to Fred's Head, you are granting APH permission to publish this information.

Fair Use Notice: This website may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright holder(s). This site is operated on the assumption that using this information constitutes 'fair use' of said copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law.

Opinions appearing in Fred's Head records are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Printing House for the Blind.