How to Use a White Tipped Cane

Whether you are visually impaired, blind, just getting to know someone who is blind/visually impaired, or you need to play the role of a blind person in a play/other show, (e.g., Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker), here is a basic understanding of how a white-tipped cane is properly used.


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    Obtain a suitable cane of the right length for your height. Generally speaking this will mean that the cane grip will reach your armpit when the tip is resting on the floor.
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    You should use the cane with whichever hand feels most comfortable but generally a right-handed person should use their left hand.
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    Note that all canes consist of 3 main parts; the grip, the tip, and the cane. Hold the grip firmly but loosely in your hand. If it has a flat surface, (like a golf club grip) lay your index finger on the flat surface.
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    Let your wrist settle to somewhere between your belly button and waist, slightly to one side, and gently swing the cane from side to side. The tip should always stay in contact with the ground, swinging approximately the width of your shoulders.
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    When you walk, alternate the swing with your steps. As you step with the right foot, your cane should go to the left, and vice versa. If you find that your cane is swinging in the wrong direction, let the cane stay in that general direction and fix it with your next few steps. Your head should be held high and you shoulders kept relaxed. This will allow you to use any remaining vision and whatever hearing you have to aid your mobility.
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    Mastering the stairs: When going down stairs, let the cane tip fall onto the next step and don't swing it in case other people are trying to go down the stairs too. When going up the stairs, the cane will hit the first step when you are on the ground level. Grab the cane so it's relatively vertical, and let the cane hit each step as you ascend. Once you reach the top, go back to swinging. When going down the stairs, let the cane tip fall onto the next step and then step down to it. For a smoother descent push the cane forward along the step and allow the cane drop two steps below, so that it is always a step ahead of you. Keep the cane from swinging to allow other people to use the stairs. When pushing the cane forward doesn't result in it dropping you know you've reached the end of that set of stairs. To avoid a nasty fall, remember that after the cane has reached the bottom of the stairs, you still have another step to take!
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    Practice using a cane; it takes a while to get used to. Make sure you are confident in your cane mobility skills before going out alone.


  • Don't cross streets alone when you're a beginner. Most cane users are introduced to crossing streets by a certified mobility instructor. Crossing, especially at busy intersections, takes practice and should not be done as a new cane user.
  • If there is an escalator, place the cane on the moving area to determine if it's upward or downward. If the cane pulls away from you, it's going up.
  • Remember that the final hit when going up the stairs means that you have one more step to go. When going down, you also have to make one more step before you are safely on the ground.
  • If you see someone with a cane, don't treat them differently than any other person. Blind is not an alternate word for stupid, deaf, or inattentive. Blind people are still very capable, and many of them can be independent.
  • There are a variety of different cane tips available - including a pointer tip, a roller-ball tip and a mushroom tip - experiment with the different tips until you find the one that works best for you.


  • Blind mobility students are taught that if necessary, to use their canes in self-defense situations. (these canes are mainly made out of aluminum or graphite.)
  • The cane is not a toy, it is a tool. Blind people treat a cane like an addition to their bodies and as a necessity for personal safety, mobility, and independence. If you are sighted, do not under any circumstances try to grab or take a person's cane.
  • Remember the stair rules.
  • Don't cross streets unless you know how.
  • If you are in a play or something, don't over-dramatize. Remember that blind people have all their lives to adjust to being blind, and as a result they can navigate skillfully and gracefully through the world. After the performance, put the cane away and don't bring it out in public.

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Categories: Medication and Medical Equipment | Blind and Visually Impaired