What type of cane do I need?

Using a cane can be a great way to make it easier and safer to get around independently. They create a wider field of touch so you can detect obstacles and orient yourself to your surroundings more easily. Canes are also widely recognised meaning that while you’re out and about, members of the public may move out of your way and offer help if you need it.

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If you’re considering using a white cane, understanding the different types of cane, how people use them in practice, and which cane might suit your needs best can be helpful. 

In this guide, we’ll outline the features and uses of different canes and things to consider when choosing which is right for you. 

Types of canes for vision impairment 

There are four common types of canes for people with sight loss:

  1. Long cane
  2. Guide cane
  3. Symbol cane
  4. Support cane

Beyond these four main types, there are also different features, tips and colours that can be useful for you to recognise and understand. Most canes are made from aluminium, so they are light but strong and are normally covered with a reflective coating or tape for improved safety at night.   

What are the different types of cane tips? 

  • Rolling ball tip: A spherical ball tip that rolls over the ground to detect even small hazards, like cracks in the pavement. It can fit over a pencil cane tip and be removed when not needed. Rolling ball tips are available in small and large sizes and are compatible with the constant contact cane technique. 
  • Roller tip: Shaped like a disc and rolls from side to side so the cane moves in a sweeping motion.
  • Pencil tip: A straight tip with a rounded ‘point’ at the end. They are often used to tap on the ground in a two- or three-point technique.
  • Marshmallow tip: A cylindrical nylon tip available in a static version for using the two-point touch technique or a roller style for constant contact.
  • Ceramic tip: Can be used with either two-touch technique or constant contact, and provides the highest level of tactile and audio transmission.
  • Huju tip: A hardwearing, all-terrain tip suitable for uneven surfaces like gravel, sand and grass. It doesn’t dig into holes or cracks in the ground. This style of cane tip is ideal for more adventurous users. 

What does it mean when a cane has a red band in the UK?

In the UK, a red band on any type of cane is a sign that the user has hearing loss as well as visual impairment. A white cane with a red band draws attention to the fact that the user may need additional support and adjustments.

How do I learn to use a cane? 

You must undergo mobility and orientation training before using a cane. Your local authority sensory team or an orientation specialist will arrange for you to learn how to use a cane safely. You may also receive an assessment from a physiotherapist to determine your correct cane size.

Frequently asked questions

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