As part of International White Cane Day 2018, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT launched the Cane Do education campaign to remind the community what they ‘cane do’ to lend a helping hand to people with sight loss.
New research from two different surveys has revealed an over-eager Australian public misunderstand how to best assist people who are blind or who have sight loss.
A Guide Dogs Australia survey revelaed that:
- Two thirds (64%) 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
- A similar number of people who use white canes (67%) also reported that people talk to their sighted companions instead of them directly when out in the community
This is despite YouGov research that shows:
- Three quarters (74%) of the Australian public feel confident they could provide appropriate assistance to a person with a white cane in the street
While the majority of the time the community and their efforts to help a person with sight loss are well intentioned, there appears to be a disconnect between knowledge and actions.
Rebecca Wong, a Guide Dogs NSW/ACT client who has been blind since birth says she regularly experiences members of the public grabbing or pushing her without her permission when out in the community with her white cane or when catching public transport. Rebecca catches the bus every day to her work in the Sydney CBD from her inner west home.
"The problem when someone grabs you without asking first is – not only an invasion of space – but that it causes confusion and disorientation. I know most people are trying to be well-meaning, but they don’t realise that they might actually be making it harder for me to navigate public spaces, or even simply putting me in an awkward situation. It can also be potentially dangerous. One time I was pushed in the wrong direction and then couldn’t figure out where the road was," Rebecca said.
As the leading provider of Guide Dogs and other mobility services for people with vision loss, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT specialists work with people who use a white cane to teach them the skills they need to get around their communities safely and independently. The Cane Do campaign reminds members of the community what they ‘cane do’ to help people with a white cane navigate public spaces in a safe and independent way.
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