LETTERS TO THE EDITOR | Supporting the vision-impaired

Have a ‘cane-do’ attitude

Generic image. Picture: Pixabay

Generic image. Picture: Pixabay

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT recently launched our new Cane Do campaign as part of White Cane Day, reminding members of the community what they “cane do” to help people using a white cane navigate public spaces in a safe and independent way.

A recent survey of our clients Australia-wide revealed two thirds of people who use white canes have been grabbed or handled by a member of the public, even though they didn’t ask for help.

By grabbing a person with a white cane by the arm to help them onto public transport or across the road – without their consent or prior knowledge – you can disorient them or break the concentration they are using to follow a path.

We’re reminding well-meaning members of the community that the most simple, effective and helpful thing you can do, is directly ask a person using a white cane if they need assistance before trying to help.

Here’s what you “Cane Do”:

  • Ask the person using a white cane if they would like assistance and if so, how?
  • If you see a person with a white cane, be aware and give them space to navigate.
  • Don’t be offended if a person with a white cane declines your offer of help – they may simply be confidently travelling independently or concentrating.
  • Alert the person with a white cane if they are in any immediate danger.
  • Report all hazards in public spaces to your local council.

Types of White Canes:

  • Long canes are designed to physically detect obstacles as well as changes in height of the ground in front of the individual.
  • Identification canes (ID canes) are smaller than long canes and the colour white lets other people know that the person holding the cane has reduced vision. Identification canes can be useful in difficult situations such as negotiating crowds or crossing roads.
  • Support canes can be useful for people who experience problems with their balance when walking. A white support cane indicates sight loss.


Chief Executive, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT