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for the Blind

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Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

Hello. I'm 20 years old and a junior in college. Since beginning college, I have noticed how much I depend on people to get around in the evening hours and in situations of dim and no light. I have 20/50 vision and am wondering if I should consider getting a white cane and mobility training. I've spoken with my parents on the matter and they aren't very supportive of the idea, since I'm not blind, though I consider myself blind in these circumstances. I have a good flashlight which illuminates the ground directly below my feet and the ground a few paces ahead. But what about those circumstances when a flashlight it most obtrusive like the movie theatre or in places where there is light, but it's not very good. I want to get a cane and use it but my parents are the ones keeping me from it since they don't want their daughter to be stereotyped. Can someone out there offer advice? It would be greatly appreciated. My e-mail address is Thanks in advance.

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Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

I think this is one of the best sites out there. It has so much information.

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

Can anyone tell me if I can still get a folding cane from california canes? I am aware that the company is not selling directly to the public anymore but are their canes still available from other outlets or organisations? I am looking for a folding guide cane and a folding long cane from california canes.

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

Go for it! Every state has an agency dedicated to serving the blind and visually impaired and I have been working with mine for a little over one year; the people have been so wonderful. I had the same question you did...if I would even qualify for a cane and qualifying for a cane is nowhere near as strict as qualifying for a guide dog. My mobility instructor said that if she sees 50 people in a year (which is about average for her), only 5 see nothing. Everyone else is in my depth perception. From the information you shared, it sounds to me like you don't have depth perception either and take it from me, the cane is a HUGE help when it comes to stairs and drop offs, and when trying to get visual information from other people. I am much more independent now than I have ever been; I can even cross the street without any assistance (even if I am crossing a four-way intersection). Through Orientation & Mobility training, I gained confidence and it now shows. If you have any questions for me, please feel free to email them to me. The cane is a wonderful tool that I don't go anywhere without and I have a feeling if you get one and the training that goes with it, you'll be so much happier. My email address is Good luck and keep posting!


Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

I am 43 years old. I have myopic degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts. My current vision is 20/400 (right)) and 20/70 (left). Believe it or not, I was still driving with this vision , but stopped in February. Now I take the bus. It has been suggested to me that I get a white cane, but did not know if I "qualify" for one nor where to get it. I have been pretty independent, but people on the buss (drivers, other riders) and even my friends sometimes forget that I can't even make out their face in front of me. It is hoped that sometime up the road I will be able to have the cataracts removed and may get my vision restored so I can drive again, but it is uncertain with the damage already in my right eye if that will be successful in my left eye. I had a leaking vessel in the back of my eye that was cauterized two months ago, so the cataract surgery has been put off until at least the middle of September.

I am glad this message board exists so I was able to learn some things about its use. I guess I will get the cane.

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

Im 36 year old female from kentucky, I have low vision 20/2400 left eye.. 3 ft (CF) in right eye. I have Myopic Macular Degeneration. Im having trouble finding support groups in my local community, and AFB really doesnt have any listings for the state of kentucky. So im hoping to find people Here whom are expericing the same difficulties I am. I stumble alot in my own home, Steps & stairs if the contrast blends I either over step or under step. I have twisted my ankles several times by doing this. Im open for suggestions.. Should I consider a Cane? Im no longer aallowed to drive, Cooking etc is a huge task for me now. I feel helpless, Yet I can not be, I have a 4 year old daughter, and a 15 year old daughter, That need me, and demand my attention. I've had low vision for 31 years, But within the last 2 years my eyes have gotten so severe that daily task are a challenge for me. If anyone is interesting in emailing me please feel free too. It would be great hearing from someone who is sharing the same struggles that i am.

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

I have completed my cane training! I'm still a little rough around the edges, but all in all, everything is how it should be. I am more independent now than i have ever been. I can cross streets without fear; I can walk from the north side of campus back to the dorm at night after a meeting or a late study night in the library. I had the discussion with my parents this weekend and though it took a lot of courage on my part and a pair of simulator goggles, I got my point across and got my parents and sister to understand what I'm dealing with. We did a lot of going out this weekend and I took my cane along and everything was all right. I have one more meeting with my O&M instructor next week for sighted guide training and it's great because this lesson, some of my friends and colleagues will be involved and will get to meet my AMAZING instructor who has done so much for me and quickly became a very good friend of mine. What a difference the cane makes!

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

Last week, i had my first O&M lesson and got my first cane, a 52inch graphite folding mobility cane with a few tips from Ambutech and I love it more than I ever thought I would. I can go anywhere and do anything I please. Lately, I have been finding myself making up excuses to go out and use it...practice makes perfect. I can't believe how much more confident and comfortable I feel. People are much nicer now; I don't have to explain myself when I ask where something is or if I ask someone to read something for me. People also step to the side when they see or hear me coming. My cane tip is rather large and loud but it works for me! I have yet to tell my parents of this new development but I know sooner or later, they will find out and I only hope that they are understanding and accepting of this choice that I made for myself. We shall see but all in all, everything is going much smoother now.

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

Well, I did it! I had my first meeting with a representative from my local agency for the blind and we have started the paperwork to try and get me some O&M training and some useful help. I have yet to tell my parents, but I figure, I will tell them when training has begun, or near completion; I haven't decided and maybe my counselor can help me talk to them, who knows! My best friend, also visually impaired, uses a guide dog and is planning a party (maybe just the two of us going out on the town) to celebrate my independence. I can't wait. I will keep updating you and please, keep writing. Thanks everyone; I couldn't have done this without you.

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

Hello all. I know I have been back and forth many times and I thank you for reading and responding; it has all helped me so much. Today, I had a breakthrough. I was visiting with a friend of mine who is visually impaired and uses a guide dog. We were talking about getting around our new building; it's so big and confusing if we don't know where we are going. She brought up the cane question. I had asked her for advice and we talked it over a while back and she just wanted to touch base with it. I told her I hadn't done anything and she was disappointed in me and she let me know it. Then, an idea came to her. She had to go to the bookstore to pick up her ordered textbooks and asked if I would go with her. Right off the heals of the cane conversation, she asked if I would like to try her cane while we walked to the bookstore, since she had her dog with her. I promptly said that would be a great idea. She showed me how to use it (just a simple technique) and soon enough, we were off. I must say, I have never felt as good as I did for those 30 minutes we were out and about. People moved out of my way, held doors for me and didn't stare at me like I was crazy...they could see I was visually impaired. It felt so good, I made the phone call to my local Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services and left a message for one of the staff members (our campus ADA Coordinator gave me his number, in case I needed it). It was after hours when I called so I will hopefully hear from him sometime in the near future and will get the ball rolling on this. I am so excited to start this. My family doesn't know but when I talk to the BVS rep. and get everything started, he can maybe help me talk to them; we shall see. I will keep you posted on my progress and thanks again everyone!


Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

I know this has been a long time coming but I believe I have finally reached a decision: I'm getting the cane, and am going to try it. The worst thing that happens is my parents get angry for a bit but they'll get over it. I have a feeling, once they see me traveling independently and confidently, their attitudes might change. Thanks to all of you for all of your help but please, keep the stories and encouragement coming; I don't feel so alone when I read them.

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

If you decide to use a cane, you DO NOT need mobility training to just go out there and try it- it's not going to hurt anyone. Mobility training helps establish good "textbook" cane technique, but it's highly unlikely that you'll ever end up using the same grips/motions that're taught in class, given time to develop your own style.

That said, if you're having issues OUTSIDE of simply moving about with the cane (ie, not being able to see cars) and want to learn adaptive techniques, it would be very helpful to go through some. Again, I stress that while it's very helpful, it's not essential.

Generally, identification canes are shorter than regular mobility canes- it's your choice which to get.

If you want one just for the purpose of identifying yourself as visually impaired, or just for occasionally scanning for curbs in front of you, the ambutech folding guide cane might work best- but it's blatantly useless for two point tap, if you want to use it for full mobility purposes.

For a more "regular" long cane that's also reasonably priced (and very light weight) the NFB has an online shop which sells 50/50 carbon fiber canes for 10$ plus 3$ shipping, which is very reasonable. Of course, there's a whole lot of canes aside from the ones I've mentioned, and it's really an aquired taste. Aside from suggesting that you pick a cane that's well-listed as being "lightweight" (ie, not aluminum or some older fiberglass styles) it's really up to you.

Although I don't carry or use a guide cane (ever) I would imagine that you would want at LEAST 48 inches.

For a more mobility-oriented cane (one which you plan to use straight ahead of you, in two-point tap or rolling back and forth), I'd suggest starting with one 54 inches, or longer.

That may sound very very long when you're 60 inches tall, but it'll give you better notice of where things ahead of you are. Eventually you may decide to go slightly shorter or longer, but that's a fairly good place to start.

If you've got any other questions, I'll try and do my best to help out.

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

Responding to the latest post, I have a couple of questions:

1. Do I need O&M instruction on using the guide cane?

2. How do I measure for the appropriate length of the came?

3. I'm five feet tall, can someone give me an estimate of how long it would need to be?

I've done a little research and found the ambutech website, finding it very helpful. I just need to make sure I'm doing the right thing. And, again, thanks to everyone who has been posting here...I think I've finally found a place where I completely fit in. It's hard growing up with low vision...I'm not considered fully sighted but I'm not blind either but finding a place like this makes me feel like a part of a group that's going through the same stuff I am. Thanks again everyone and keep the advice coming!!!

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

First, I think it's a terrific idea to use a cane if you've found yourself needing it. Making the choice is always better than being forced to.

Second, consider buying an identification cane or a "folding guide cane (sold by ambutech) They're very lightweight and cheap, and their intended purpose is informing the general public of your visual impairment. That said, both an identification (or symbol) cane and a folding guide cane (which can have a rolling ball attched to the end) both can be used to check for curbs/steps/ect.

This requires very little or no training. In the case of the rolling ball type cane, simply hold the cane with your dominant hand, and have the ball roll several inches away from your body on the other side. Ie, if you are olding it with your right hand, hold it diagnally so that it rolls a few inches in front of and to the left of your left foot, giving you about a step's notice of curbs, and also allowing you to safely get up stairs, even if you don't need it for full mobility purposes.

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

Hi, I am legally blind and also have Parkinson's Disease (and a few other ailments). I can see, but need a lot of light (cataracts are thE LATEST).
I do not use a cane (yet), but do use a variety of lighting devices, such as a keychain light pm every set of keys I have (I own three scooters - all with their own keys. I write this to tell you of my FAVORITE LIGHT. It's a headlamp that I FIRST USED on a hiking trip with the Sierra Club years ago. It was great to use when coking over a campfire, or going to the
"outdoor facility" in the middle of the night. Especially cooking... hands were free to handle pots, food and fire.

I now use it when I ride my outdoor recumbent tricycle (so drivers can see me better), when I'm doing gardening (and want my hands free to work), when I do photography (yes, I do original digital photo art), when I am reading and the lamplight isn't strong enough, when I fill out hard to read forms (taxes), and when the lights went out during our recent evacuation from the California firestorms!

You can purchase headlamps at most outdoor equipment stores, such as REI. The average cost is about $35 to $50. Try one! I would imagine it would be great for walking around a campus at night when you are juggling
books, computers, etc. The light is very strong and can illuminate your path. They even have different setting.... flashing, strobe,emergency, etc.

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

I like your idea of trying to get training etc at school but sooner or later your parents are going to have to know. If you are anything like me, you will come to rely on your cane -- that's not a bad thing -- but what happens when school lets out or they visit? I still think you are right but do a little thinking about how to handle them. Let us know how its going

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

You sound like me even down to your parents. They were told to get me mobility training when I was in grade school but they ( & I ) held out till I went into one of those monster high schools and we had to admit I needed help.
I've been using a cane now for more the 20 years and its never defined me. Yes, my ability to see is limited but I also have a college degree, a husband, three kids -- two of which inherited my eyes unfortunetately -- sometimes we joke we look like the three blind mice ( we got them help as soon as we knew ), and a gret life.
I think you might want to be evaluated a professional and then you can take they recommendation to Mom. If you going to a university its health care system might be your first stop. Or depending where you live their are probably private and government agencies you could see.
I never regretted adopting a cane and using every other thing I needed to let me function as close aas possible to a fulled sighted person. If you feel you would be better for using a cane, do it. Oh yes, those agencies have terrific training programs; make use of them.
Best of luck and let us know how its going

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

Your entery, reminds me of myself when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I had an issue within myself and my mother. I knew something was amis with my vision(things were changing and not for the better) resulting in me having to constantly look at my feet while walking in unfamiliar or changing environments, to complete blindness in low light or no light conditions.

Needless to say I constantly bumped, stumbled and even tripped along for a very long time. My mother and I had more than one heated discussion about my vision, until one day she realized that a change had to be made.

Have you gotten an evaluation from an eye doctor that specializes in Low Vision? An eye doctor who treats low vision and blindness, will test your eyes to see how many degrees of vision you are working with, and the sharpness of how well you see, and what happens when various conditions are mimiced(bright light and low, to no light). Be honest with your doctor, if you can't see it clearly or if the light bothers your eyes or if something in the dusk tooks to you as if it's not there tell them.

I got basic O&M training in 2006 and it gave me greater independece and less "bumbling" along. You have to sometimes advocate for yourself, because the cane does help to keep you safer in the unfamiliar.

Best of luck to you.

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

Thank you so much for that advice. Sometimes I feel like I have more maturity about this than they do. I think this winter, I'm going to look into training and such and see if they can train me on my college campus and in our community. Then, my parents don't really have to know about it and I can make everyone happy.

Re:Low Vision (20/50) and the Long White Cane

Hi EM! I believe it a great idea to be more independent and less dependent on sighted help. You can come and go as you please without waiting for someone to come along with you. It is ultimately your decision to make the choice of using a cane, you are an adult and are adjusting to your circumstances better than your parents. I'm sorry to hear that they aren't able to admit that you may need a cane. But they have to accept the fact that you are the one who has to make these decisions. If you do what you feel in your heart is the right thing, you can teach them that it isn't so bad.
There are sevices for the visually impaired that offer classes for family members as well, so I'd look into that.
As I read your post, I get the impression that a cane won't bother you or that it will sterotype you. That is good. You have a better sense of yourself than most.
I am partially sighted and I use my white can often. I'm not ashamed to need it on occasiion. I have tons of problems with my eyes which demands the use of it most of the time. My cane does not define me. I can't go around worrying what people must think of me. Let them think what ever, I know that in my heart I am an strong, independent and happy person. I live, work, and play just like anyone else, escept I do it differently.
I laugh, cry, and love just like the next person.
Stay strong. Do the right thing that will make you safe and independent.


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