There is an ongoing debate in the visual impairment community whether a long cane (the mobility aid that many blind and visually impaired people use) should stay the standard colour of white or be coloured to represent a person’s individuality. Every blind and visually impaired person has different views on this and their own reasons for why they think that way, there is no right or wrong answer.
The RNIB have launched the cane debate as part of their #HowISee campaign on whether canes should always be white or if they should be coloured to represent a person’s individuality. Make sure you check out their brilliant video on the cane debate:
They very Kindly asked me to get involved with the campaign and share my own views on the cane debate.
So today I thought I’d share some of the reasons for each side of the debate with you and tell you my own view on this topic.
Reasons for using the standard white cane
- The colour white is associated with canes so that the public know that a person has a visual impairment.
Changing this may cause confusion and lead to problems. People may therefore not know what each colour means or what it represents.
Blind or visually impaired people may not receive help when out and about as the general public might not understand what a coloured cane means, as white is the universal colour.
If a visually impaired person does not receive help when they need it, it may make going out independently very stressful and may cause issues.
2. The white cane is recognised all over the world.
The white cane is universal and is recognised everywhere you go.
3. The public associate a white cane as a mobility aid for blind and visually impaired people
Coloured canes may confuse this and they may see it as a general accessory rather than a mobility aid.
4. People who have both a visual and hearing impairment often use a red and white cane which symbolises this, which is something that the general public recognise.
If people with a visual and hearing impairment change this, then it might confuse the general public. They may also feel like they cannot use a coloured cane because of the two colours so may be restricted to using the standard red and white cane.
5. Some blind and visually impaired people feel safer using a standard white cane, rather than a coloured one.
This may be the case when travelling independently in the dark, or in an unfamiliar place. This can often mean that they don’t worry whether the public will see their cane as white ones are easy to see.
Reasons for using a coloured cane
- People should be able to show their individuality.
A cane is a mobility aid, meaning that it is a blind or visually impaired person’s key to independence. It is something that a blind or visually impaired person carries with them throughout the day so being able to represent their individuality by having a coloured cane means that it can be seen as an accessory, rather than just a mobility aid.
2. Some blind or visually impaired people may feel more comfortable using a coloured cane, rather than a standard white cane.
Learning to use a cane can often be daunting for many blind and visually impaired people, it can leave them feeling vulnerable or thinking that their disability is the first thing that the public see because of their cane. Using a coloured cane can often take away these negative thoughts and feelings.
It may also encourage people, especially children, to start using a cane.
3. People receive compliments on their coloured cane, which can start a conversation .
The general public may have only come across white canes, rather than people using coloured ones. This may come as a surprise to them, so they may be intrigued and want to know more.
4. Having a coloured cane tackles the stigma of a stereotypical blind person.
The idea of a white cane is often attached to the stereotypical blind person. Using a coloured cane can often educate others and tackle this outdated stereotype.
People recognise a long cane with the action it is being used, rather than the colour
A cane is used in the same way, regardless of its colour so does it really make a difference to people you pass in the street?
5. Using coloured canes means that people can have a collection of them if they wish.
Having various coloured canes means that blind and visually impaired people can have a coloured cane for every occasion. It can make things more interesting! Many people with a visual impairment choose their colour cane they will use on a daily basis depending on their outfit, this is interesting as they are viewing it as an accessory, as well as a mobility aid.
My thoughts on the debate
I wrote a post on how I learnt to embrace the cane which you can read here. It took me a long time to fully feel confident and comfortable when using a cane, I felt vulnerable, anxious and thought I was sticking out like a sore thumb which was obviously not the case.
I started off using a white cane as this was what I was given by my local mobility team, but I absolutely hated it so my Mum and Dad bought me a pink cane. I did like the pink cane as I felt like it was a bit different, but it didn’t take away the feeling of anxiety when using it. In fact, I still tried my best to not use one whenever I could, I probably came up with every excuse under the sun.
However, having a coloured cane did spark interest among many people, I often received compliments about my coloured cane and still do so today. I think people find it really interesting and it doesn’t seem to deter them away from thinking that it is my mobility aid, people still offer me help like they would if I was using a standard white cane, and I’m still treated in the same way. People don’t express their pity, instead they often talk about the colour of my cane and how much they like it. At the end of the day, I’m still using it in the same way, the colour does not change that. I don’t think the colour of a cane makes much difference, it still has the same purpose.
I’d say the turning point for me when using a cane was when I went to university, I started to feel more comfortable and confident when using one, it was the first time that I felt like I could get around independently. I didn’t have that feeling of anxiety anymore. I couldn’t imagine my life without a cane now.
Although I am confident in using a cane and I like to think that I’m independent, I still use a coloured cane. I have a purple one and I don’t plan on changing it any time soon. I love it! I don’t think that coloured canes are just for people learning to use one or for encouraging children to use a cane, they can be for anyone. Having a coloured cane allows me to be original, I’m a girly girl so having a cane that fits my style is great. I use my cane all of the time so I think it’s important that it represents the person I am.
I know that coloured canes aren’t for everyone, some people prefer the standard white cane and that’s absolutely fine. I think it’s all about personal preference and what you feel most comfortable using.
That concludes today’s post, I hope you have enjoyed reading. If you have a visual impairment, do you use a white or coloured cane? Let me know in the comments!
Make sure you check out RNIB’s #HowISee campaign and share your experiences.