Introduction: How the Blind Use Canes
Blind or visually-impaired people may use a cane to get around safely. While it may seem seem foreign or intimidating, it is simpler than you may think.
Step 1: Types of Canes
A cane, also called a 'white cane', is a metal or aluminum pole-like object that visually-impaired people may use to walk around safely. Typically, a cane will be about up to your armpit in height when standing up right. Canes will either be folding/collapsable or straight and one-piece. All canes are made up of three parts : the handle, the shaft, and the tip. While there are many different styles, a cane tip is usally metal or rubber and either a rolling, rounded tip or a flat, stationary tip. A cane's tip will affect the way that it is used.
Step 2: How a Cane Is Used : the Basics
As shown in the last slide, a cane usually has a flat or rounded end. Depending on the type of end, a person would use the cane differently. So, if someone has a rounded, rolling tip, they would sweep the cane on the floor. Alternatively, a flat ended cane would usually be used by tapping the cane from side to side. By rolling or tapping the cane from side to side, opposite of your leading foot, cane-users know what is in front of them through the cane rather than running into the object.
Step 3: Elevations
Canes not only assist with navigation on flat ground, but they also alert the user to drops or steps, like curbs. So, if someone with a cane were walking off of a curb, their cane would drop before their foot, telling them when to step down so that they won't drop suddenly or fall. Likewise, if they are stepping up onto a curb, the cane would hit the step so that they won't trip.
Step 4: Echoes
Interestingly, canes can even alert someone as to what kind of space they are in - open or closed. When using a tapping cane, echoes emitted by the cane can indicate what kind of space it is. So, if the echoes sound loud and repeating, it is likely that you are in a corner or other closed space. On the other hand, if the echoes are light or quiet, it usually indicates an open environment.
Step 5: Why It Matters
Canes are necessary tools for blind or visually-impaired people, and allow them to walk safely and confidently, no different than a sighted person can. Without canes, many people that use them would get hurt by running into walls, dropping off curbs, tripping, and so on. Although the use of canes may not seem relevant or important to some, they are a major part of the lives for many. More so, accidents do happen, and this information may be crucial to you or someone you know in the future.
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