More awareness needed on significance of white cane in Newfoundland and Labrador

An elderly woman uses her white support cane for balance as she steps onto a bus. A young man places his ID cane on the counter at the bank as he cashes a cheque. A student moves her long white cane back and forth along the sidewalk as she makes her way across campus.

What do these three scenarios have in common?

Each of these individuals is telling the bus driver, bank teller and other students that he or she is blind or partially sighted. Yet, every day people with vision loss in Newfoundland and Labrador face challenges associated with people not knowing what their canes represent.

“Everyone involved in these situations should be aware of what the white cane means, so they can better assist the person with vision loss,” says Louise Gillis, president of the Canadian Council of the Blind, (CCB). “Upon seeing the white cane, the driver should announce the bus number or destination so the elderly woman knows she is on the right bus. The bank teller should know the man can’t see her holding the money out for him to take from her; she should place it in his hand. And people sharing the sidewalk should let the student know they are there, or move out of the way.”

Gillis says the CCB is committed to raising awareness of the white cane as a symbol of ability and independence – not disability. White Cane Week, which is held February 3-9, 2013, plays an essential role in improving Canadians’ understanding of the lives of people in their community who are living with vision loss.

Three types of white canes identify a person as having vision loss in addition to meeting other mobility and travel needs:
·       the long cane is most often used for mobility and assists with object detection and depth perception, alerting the individual to gradient changes and upcoming barriers or dangers in the path of travel.
·       a support cane is the least recognized of the white canes and is used to assist with balance; mostly used by seniors who need extra support and stability.
·       an ID cane is used for identifying oneself as a person with vision loss so that others will respond appropriately by not impeding the path of travel or by offering assistance.

Another community-based, non-profit organization, CNIB, provides vision rehabilitation programs and services at no cost to individuals who are blind or partially sighted, including training on how to travel safely and independently in their home and community.

“CNIB’s orientation and mobility program teaches individuals way-finding and cane skills, street crossing techniques and how to use public transit as well as the sighted-guide technique, which is a safe way to walk with a sighted person,” says Alice Arns, CNIB’s orientation and mobility specialist. “CNIB also works with community organizations on how to identify and better accommodate people who are blind or partially sighted, such as police officers, flight attendants, bus drivers, city engineers and shopping centre staff.”
For more information on CCB’s White Cane Week events and local chapter activities, please visit For more information on CNIB’s vision rehabilitation programs and services, please visit .
Media contacts:

Elizabeth Mayo, CCB

Debbie Ryan, CNIB
709-754-1180 ext. 5811
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