White cane

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A white cane is used by many people who are blind or visually impaired, both as a mobility tool and as a courtesy to others. Not all modern white canes are designed to fulfill the same primary function, however: There are at least five different varieties of this tool, each serving a slightly different need.



  • Long cane: This "traditional" white cane, also known as a "Hoover" cane, after Dr. Richard Hoover, is designed primarily as a mobility tool used to detect objects in the path of a user. Cane length depends upon the height of a user, and traditionally extends from the floor to the user's sternum. Some organizers favor the use of much longer canes.[1]
  • "Kiddie" cane: This version works in the same way as an adult's long cane, but is designed for use by children.
  • Identification cane ("Symbol Cane" in British English): The ID cane is used primarily to alert others as to the bearer's visual impairment. It is often lighter and shorter than the long cane, and has no use as a mobility tool.
  • Support cane: The white support cane is designed primarily to offer physical stability to a visually impaired user. By virtue of its colour, the cane also works as a means of identification. This tool has very limited potential as a mobility device.

Mobility canes are often made from aluminium, graphite-reinforced plastic or other fibre-reinforced plastic, and can come with a wide variety of tips depending upon user preference.


Blind people have used canes as mobility tools for centuries[citation needed], but it was not until after World War I that the white cane was introduced.

In 1921 James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol who became blind after an accident and was uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home, painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible.[citation needed]

In 1931 in France, Guilly d'Herbemont launched a national white stick movement for blind people. On February 7, 1931, Guilly d' Herbemont symbolically gave the first two white canes to blind people, in the presence of several French ministers. 5,000 more white canes were later sent to blind French veterans from World War I and blind civilians.[2]

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