One Woman’s Story: A White Cane Provides a New Sense of Safety

A woman with glasses holding chin smiling at the camera.

“I was diagnosed with retinal degeneration and told it’s an inherited deficit impacting my field of vision,” Becky says. “But I had no idea I would lose my eyesight because of it.”

“I had to stop driving in 2016 and that’s when I quickly realized I could no longer walk around safely either. Uneven sidewalks, curbs and stairs became a major challenge to navigate. A white cane was suggested, but I refused the idea.”

Becky continued to dismiss using a white cane until the day she missed a train to visit her mother. She couldn’t find her way through Chicago’s Union Station independently.

“Everyone told me and I finally agreed. If I’d been using a cane, it would have made a difference,” Becky says.

“I was referred to an Orientation and Mobility Specialist to learn about white cane navigation techniques along with safety strategies to cross the street by listening to the pattern of traffic around me.”

Becky also learned there are various types of white canes with different functions.

  • A standard mobility cane is typically white, long and lightweight. It is used to navigate obstacles through a vibration provided as the cane is tapped or slid along the ground.
  • A support cane is rigid and aids in physical stability. It is used by people with impaired vision who may also have mobility challenges.
  • An ID cane is small and foldable. It lets others know the person using the cane has a visual impairment.

Becky’s first walk around her neighborhood as a new cane user was stressful, but it instantly gave her a sense of safety.

“I could navigate all the bumps and curbs I’d been having trouble with before,” Becky says.

Becky now takes every opportunity to talk with others about her experience using a white cane. She even spoke at the fall meeting of her Lions Club and found people wanted to know more about it, including what they can do to support someone with a cane.

“Look up from your phone, pay attention to your surroundings and try not to add to the tripping hazards,” Becky says. “And don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s the best way for you to learn how a white cane can make someone living with vision impairment feel free, independent and safe.

Did you know?

The Council will provide a free white cane to any Wisconsin resident who is blind or visually impaired. The White Cane Program is generously supported by donations from individuals. It does not receive any public funding. Those who need a white cane are eligible for a free one every 24 months.

Learn More About Free White Canes.

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