White Canes

A white cane can be a big help for people who are blind or have low vision. Learn more about the benefits of a white cane, the different types of canes and where to get a white cane below.

Make the world safer with a white cane

A white cane is an excellent aid for getting out and about if you are blind or have low vision. People use white canes for a variety of reasons.  A lot of sighted people identify with a white cane being used for people who are completely blind, but people who have low vision also use them.

After being trained to use a cane, you will become more confident with where you can go and what you can do.

If you or someone you know is interested in using a cane, Blind Low Vision NZ recommends an assessment with one of our qualified trainers.  They will teach you to use the cane most appropriate for your safety.

A person who is blind or has low vision walking around a park with his white cane

Different White Canes for Different Needs

Not all canes are the same. Different types of white canes and techniques depend on the person and their environment.

Blind Low Vision NZ has three types: the long cane, a shorter symbol cane and a support cane. All the canes are white, and most have red on the bottom section.

Long canes – using a long cane to check out your environment ahead, you will soon be stepping out confidently. It will check the path 1.5 to 2 steps ahead of you so that you will have a warning about any obstacles, hazards or surface changes. The length depends on your height and walking speed.  They come in rigid or folding models.

Symbol canes – these are shorter versions of the long cane.  These aren’t used to check the area in front of you but to let people know you are blind or have low vision. They are about 70 cm long.

Support canes – these are used for people with balance or support issues.  They are not for checking the environment ahead. Blind Low Vision NZ recommends an OT or GP assessment for anyone with balance or support issues. We work alongside these experts to ensure you have the right mobility aid.  Our support canes are white and red to show people you have low vision.

White Cane Tips

There are different tips for the long canes – pencil tips, rolling tips, marshmallow and ball tips. The best tip for your cane depends on your cane technique and where you use the cane. An Orientation and Mobility Instructor will run through an assessment with you before we issue you a cane.  If you’re fully eligible you’ll be able to access the Ministry of Health White fund for your first cane. We can submit the application on your behalf.

You can call us on 0800 24 33 33 or email generalenquiries@blindlowvision.org.nz to find out more.

A blind or low vision man holding his unassembled white cane