White canes serve two purposes. First, for the severely-visually-impaired it helps navigate tight spaces and uneven terrain. (You never realize how many tripping hazards there are in your average day until you can’t see them.) Second, it lets everyone know that you can’t see.
It’s a common misconception, even among those losing vision, that you have to be totally blind (aka “No Visible Light”) to carry a white cane. In some states you have to meet certain “legally blind” requirements (it varies from state to state); but in most places if you feel your eyesight slows your speed or reflexes, and you want to alert others, it’s a-ok to carry a white cane.
Of course, that doesn’t help the weird looks you’ll get holding a white cane and reading a newspaper at the bus stop.
I’ve never heard horror stories of people getting yelled at for not being blind enough, but my “crippled friend” (getting
double-hip replacement surgery in two months @ age 33) gets plenty of dirty looks at the grocery store parking lot when she’s having a good day and can hold onto a shopping cart instead of a cane. In some people’s opinion, she’s not crippled enough to take that parking spot if she’s not in a wheelchair (and they will let her know it!)
I have no idea what I would say to someone confronting me about still having some vision while carrying a white cane. I wonder if I’ll find out.
I live a few blocks north of Greenlake in Seattle. I hit the Bartell’s in Wallingford and a few Walgreens’ around town. No white canes, no clue as to where to get one. I decide to save the gas and shop online.
Googling around I found three things:
1) White cane makers make very few white “support” canes,
2) Support cane makers offer very few models in white, and
3) Most white support canes are ugh-lee.
There is a wider selection of CLEAR support canes than white.
Do the blind have no fashion sense, or – like the fat – are we deemed unworthy of style?
I finally hit upon a decent looking model from a company called Ambutech.
They aren’t exactly Cover of GQ, but they aren’t Middle-School Sports Injury, either.
I decided to go with the fixed-length model with the T-Handle, so I clicked the order page.
Because this is a fixed length, you have to tell them how tall to make it. I have no idea.
This may be my first white cane, but it is far from my first cane. In many Seattle homes there is an umbrella stand near the door. In my home, there is a cane box.
In spite of my collections of canes (I have another collection of them in Texas), until the day before yesterday, I had no idea what size cane I used.
I’m a guy. I have to check my shoes to tell you my shoe size.
Like my shoes, I try canes on and get the ones that are comfortable. That doesn’t exactly work for online shopping. (The mystery of why I don’t buy shoes online is SOLVED!)
I measure from the bottom of the rubber tip to the highest part of the handle. It’s 36″ exactly.
Using the pull-down menu, I select 36″ and click the “Add to Cart” button. Clicking on this button takes me to my cart, which they say is empty.
I hit the back button and try again. Same result.
I close Safari and open up Camino. Click, click, click, add-to-cart… same result.
Frustrated, I closed Camino and decided that buying straight-from-the-manufacturer may not be the best way to go.
My wife attempts
When C got home from work, I asked her to pull up the web site on her account.
Click, click, click.
OK, now click “Add to cart”.
…and it added it to her cart.
She smiled and asked, “Do you want me to buy my honey a cane?”
Well, if you’re offering.
The next morning over breakfast, C’s iPhone begins ringing. It’s a strange number.
It’s Ambutech. Apparently the web order says we didn’t choose a size.
C verified that I measured correctly and finalized the order. Now I’m just waiting for it to arrive in the mail. Let’s hope they’re better at making canes than websites.