Using a white cane

I am just wondering how many of us who have Stargardt’s actually use a white cane? I have talked about using one in my post about airports but thought I would post on the subject once again.

Hospitals are another place where I use my white cane a lot. However, in one of the comments to a post, it was mentioned that the medical profession is most unsympathetic when it comes to disabilities … and I concur! Hospitals tend to be real rabbit warrens with a maze of corridors, small room numbers, name plates etc. placed high up and out of visual reach of (probably) many visually impaired. I have had a number of medical appointments in the past couple of months which have involved visiting various departments in local hospitals. There is usually an information desk placed near the main entrance when one can get directions … if one can just remember them all! Once you get to the relevant department and find the reception desk to check in and pay, a number needs to be taken but a) the number on the slip is usually very small and b) the number on the digital monitor high up is neigh-on impossible to read/decipher! Some very kind nurses do shout out the next number which is of great help … IF you have been able to see that little number on the ticket! If you are first called up by a nurse, they can often offer great assistance and even offer to guide you by your elbow or politely ask how much you can see. However doctors on the whole simply expect you to folow their (usually fast) pace back to their office. They invariably point out results/graphs etc. on their computer screen or on a printed paper … so one quickly has to point out that one is unable to see such items. When it is time to leave and you ask politely for them to show you the way out (they know their maze of corridors very well, first time for me), they invariably wave a hand in the general direction of the door and corridor!

Another instance when I find the white cane does help is anywhere a queue number ticket is necessary – and boy! there are a lot of those places today – banks, drug stores, train ticket offices, liquor stores and many other shops. In the “olden days” we just formed an orderly queue and waited patiently in line! Nowadays, after having determined which of the buttons I should press for the ticket for the relevent service/queue, I usually ask a nearby person what is the number on my ticket and what number are we on now. I then carefully count the “buzzes” as a new queue number appears on the digital monitor. Of course, it is also impossible to see the number of the desk/counter one should go to in order to get service! Thankfully I usually get great help from fellow queuers who tell me as my number approaches and, finally, show me which desk/counter to go to.

I cannot say that I need to use my white cane too much in order to avoid obstacles along the way .. my field of vision is pretty good so I am able to see such. However, a white cane helps me a great deal when going DOWN stairs/steps … people then accept that I will go slower as stairs can be a nightmare if edges are badly marked. Even though I know each step is of a uniform size, I still falter a lot.

I found an interesting article on VisionAware that raises some good points, What Will People Think About Me if I Use a White Cane?. I think it is probably true what is said here about thinking that everyone stares at you just because you are using a white cane. I do feel very self-conscious when I use a white cane but, hey, anything to make Life a little easier (and safer), right?! 🙂


  1. Hello,

    I use a white cane sometimes, when I ride the bus its great, because the cane lets the bus driver know I cant see the bus number, I also use it when I travel, because again it lets people know i am visually impaired. The white cane is great when you want to do something fast, but you need help, it tells people right away that you cant see and then you can avoid getting hesitation when asking for help. It does make people wonder though, if your like me and you don’t look visually impaired, some people will think you are faking, at least that has happened to me. I think you should do whatever make your life easier, it’s what I do.

    Best wishes

    1. Once again, Valerie, I totally agree with what you say. I also understand what you say about people thinking you are faking … but I know that the white cane helps me and lessens my anxiety thus making my life easier so try and ignore their suspicious stares 🙂

  2. Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for your comments 🙂 Your point about the white cane being an indicator to others, especially drivers, is a very valid one. I will certainly look into the book you mentioned.

  3. I do not yet use a white cane since I am not yet legally blind and my distance vision is much better than my reading vision. But since I live in a very large American city, I will use a white cane as soon as I feel I need one for several reasons. One is as an indicator to other people and to drivers in cars that I am visually impaired. One of my good friends who has congenital glaucoma since birth has spoken to me about the benefits of using a white cane and how she relaxed once she start using a cane. How she no longer feared bumping into people and how people’s attitudes are much kinder if you use a cane. You addressed one of my concerns which is how to deal with stores where you need to read a number to get service. A big issue and thanks for talking about it. There is a well known book I downloaded called “The Care and Feeding of the Long White Cane” which you may want to read.

    Michelle Ritholz

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