Mobility Tips and Options with Blindness

People with serious visual impairments can travel independently using a white cane, the international symbol of blindness.

A long cane is used to extend the user's range of touch sensation, swung in a low sweeping motion across the intended path of travel to detect obstacles. However, some visually impaired persons do not carry these kinds of canes, opting instead for the shorter, lighter identification (ID) cane. Still others require a support cane.

Each of these is painted white for maximum visibility, and to denote visual impairment on the part of the user. In addition to making rules about who can and cannot use a cane, some governments mandate the right-of-way be given to users of white canes or guide dogs.

A small number of people, about one percent, employ guide dogs. These companions are trained to lead blind individuals around obstacles on the ground and overhead. Though highly intelligent, guide dogs neither interpret street signs nor determine when the team ought to cross a street. Visually impaired people who employ these animals must already be competent travelers.