What Will People Think About Me if I Use a White Cane?

Using a White Cane

If you are embarrassed to be seen with a cane, consider what your own reaction might be if you saw someone else walking with a cane or a guide dog.

When asked about their reactions to a person who is carrying a white cane, most people often say that the person with the white cane must have a lot of courage and savvy to get around when he or she can't see well. Many people also say that they would probably offer to help the person who is using a cane. When people stop to think about their own feelings about blindness, many are no longer embarrassed about being seen with a white cane.

You may also worry about being watched or stared at when you walk with a cane. Very few people even glance at the person using a cane. In fact, many people express admiration for the courage and competence of the person who is using the cane!

White Canes and Low Vision

Some people with low vision worry that if they carry a white cane, people will think they are "cheating" and that only people who are totally blind can use a white cane. Although this is a common belief, the fact is that the majority of people with vision problems (including those who use a white cane) have some remaining useful vision.

The American Foundation for the Blind estimates that 85% of all individuals with eye disorders have some remaining sight; only about 15% are totally blind. You can learn more about the definitions of legal blindness and low vision at Low Vision and Legal Blindness Terms and Descriptions.

It's helpful for you to know that "White Cane Laws" vary widely from state to state and drivers do not always have to stop for pedestrians who carry white canes. For more information about your own state's "White Cane Law," see White Cane Laws for States. Pedestrians Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: State Statutes, Penalties for Violations, and Excerpts from Driver Manuals at the American Council of the Blind website.

White Canes and Safety

Many people who live or travel in high-risk communities worry that carrying a white cane will make them more vulnerable to attack. At present, there is no research indicating that people with white canes are more vulnerable or likely to be targets for muggers.

However, it is often said that people seem less vulnerable when they appear confident and assertive. If that is true, then a person with a white cane who is walking quickly—and with confidence—may appear less vulnerable than a person who is not using a cane and is walking tentatively with his or her head down, trying to see the ground, perhaps tripping and stumbling on uneven pavement.

Personal Stories

  • Amy Bovaird: Mobility Matters
    As a person with retinitis pigmentosa, "Mobility matters. It allows me to join the rest of society, follow my interests and passion, and reconnect with my love for traveling. I don't have to stay at home fearing the dark anymore. I can live independently."

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