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.

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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!

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