Cane Q and A
Why use a long cane?
- A long cane helps the user to detect obstacles and hazards, drop-offs, ground level changes and stairs in the path of travel.
- A long cane provides information from the environment that assists orientation. For example, the cane user can detect changes in surface textures between grass and concrete to follow a footpath.
- Many cane users experience an increase in confidence because they hesitate less about the safety of the next step.
- A long cane improves the user's posture, because they don't need to feel the ground with their feet while travelling or walk with the head down to check the surface directly at their feet.
What are the long cane techniques?
The most commonly used techniques are:
- Diagonal technique: The cane is held in front, and slightly diagonally across the body. The tip is in contact with the ground or just above.
- Touch technique: The cane tip is arced from side to side. When the left foot steps forward the cane sweeps to the right, and when the right foot steps forward the cane sweeps to the left. This technique allows safe travel in all environments by clearing the area for each step before it's taken.
- Constant contact technique: The cane is held in front and sweeps from side to side. The tip remains in contact with the ground.
- Shoreline technique: The cane is used to follow a line such as a wall, a fence or the edge of a footpath.
On the Stairs
A long cane allows a person with impaired vision to locate and safely ascend and descend stairs. After making contact with the stairs, the person uses the cane to check the step width and height, and then proceeds with the cane always one step ahead of the footstep.
Using Public Transport
At train stations, the platform edge is located using the constant contact technique. When entering the train, the cane user listens for the opening door and people entering and exiting the carriage. They then use the shoreline technique along the train to locate the doorway.
When exiting the train, the person uses the cane to determine the gap width and height between the carriage and platform.
What are the different cane tips(ends)?
Different tips are used, depending on the preference of the cane user. The rural tip is usually preferred over the pencil tip because it has more ground surface contact, so it's easier to detect textures and doesn't get caught easily on uneven surfaces. The roller tip is popular with clients who prefer to use the constant contact technique, and the jumbo roller tip is particularly popular with bushwalkers.
How can I assist a person who is using a cane?
- Offer your help, rather than assuming the person needs assistance.
- If so, ask how you can assist.
- Always address the person directly, not through a third person.
- Speak as you usually would - you don't need to speak more loudly or slowly, or avoid words such as 'look' and 'see'.
- If the person needs guiding assistance, they will take your arm above the elbow and walk slightly behind you.
- If the person needs directions, give clear and precise directions from where they are standing.
- If you're driving and a cane user is crossing the road, please don't confuse or distract them by flashing your lights, sounding your horn or using hand gestures to wave them on.
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