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, March 03, 2010

For What is in a Name, That Which We Call a Cane?

by Laura Legendary

It was 1991 when I first began using a white cane. Since my vision loss has been a slow progression over time, I did not experience the anger issues and resentment that can sometimes accompany a sudden loss of independence due to blindness. While I won’t go so far as to say I was so excited that I just couldn’t wait to get a white cane, I found myself trying to come to terms with my circumstances so that I could be at peace and be as independent as possible.

Almost immediately, I became rather attached to the cane. I realized that the cane was an important part of my well-being, and that learning to use it properly would enhance the quality of my life. I thought of the cane as an extension of myself, and as such deserved it’s own identity.

Truthfully, I’ve always been the kind of person who gave inanimate objects names. I’m guessing there’s a luxury vehicle to be had for the psychotherapist who analyzes this little fetish, but it’s true. I have always given names to things, I personalize them, I believe that there are some objects that have energy. So like, wow man, that’s so Zen. Let’s chill.

No, I don’t wear love beads or hang crystals over doorways. Maybe it’s one of those whatever-gets-you-through-the-day types of things. Still, it was natural for me to name my new companion, and the name I chose was Candy. Candy The Cane.

Well, isn’t that adorable? maybe not, but it sure gave me comfort, when just a couple of years later, I happened to be watching a news magazine program on television, and the program featured a school for children with disabilities. Most of the children were grade school age, and they carried the tiniest little white canes. Now, THEY were truly adorable. it was when one of the little ones was interviewed that I was delighted to learn that the children had all named their white canes. Well, I thought, I’m not so bizarre after all. Childlike, maybe, but not crazy.

Over the years, I’ve made it a point to ask other people who are blind if they have a name for their white cane. many do. I find this so uplifting and encouraging. I really don’t know why, but it pleases me to think about other people who are blind who also have a questionable attachment to their mobility cane. I’ve put together a short list culled from some of my twitter followers, simply because it’s easy to poll that group. Here are just a few:

  • Seymour (Get it? See More? I know, I know…)
  • The White Shaft (That cracks me up)
  • Jane
  • Mr. Yuk (this person prefers her dog)
  • Harry (Can’t help you on that one)
  • Sticky (no comment)
  • Abel (Cain’s brother)
  • Little John McCane )
  • Whisker (As in the way a cat’s whiskers help feel the way)
  • Moses (I’ve parted many a human sea with my own cane, so that one makes sense)
  • Gary and Russell (absolutely no significance whatsoever)

I’m sometimes asked why I use a cane instead of a guide dog. Truthfully, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. While my white cane may not be as cute as a dog (although that’s a matter of opinion), Candy gets me around just fine. I will admit this, however: Candy isn’t the best cuddle partner, and she doesn’t have that cool puppy breath. On the other hand, I don’t have to clean up after Candy The Cane.

Laura Legendary is a speaker, author and educator specializing in disability awareness, accessibility and assistive technology. Visit Eloquent Insights at to request Laura for your next event. Find Laura's Accessible Insights blog at

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