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? 

  • Roller ‘marshmallow’ tip: A sphere like shape with rounded edges that rolls over the ground using constant contact technique. It is made from a durable material and is longer lasting. This tip is often the first type to be tried with the constant contact technique. 
  • Rolling ball tip: A spherical ball tip that rolls over the ground using constant contact cane technique. The larger ball is designed to reduce snagging on small cracks in the pavement. The rolling ball tip is also available in a ‘high mileage’ option where the bottom of the sphere is made of more durable material and is longer lasting.
  • Jumbo roller tip: Shaped like a disc and rolls from side to side when using constant contact cane technique. It is typically made from a durable material to make it longer lasting and designed to reduce snagging on pavement cracks.
  • Pencil tip: A straight tip with a rounded ‘point’ at the end. This is designed to be used to tap on the ground in a two- or three-point touch cane technique.
  • Flex tip: Dome shaped with a flexible neck to prevent snagging on uneven surfaces. This is designed to be used with two-point touch technique. 
  • ‘Static’ Marshmallow tip: A cylindrical nylon tip available in a static version for using two-point touch cane technique. 
  • Ceramic tip: Small ceramic half sphere shape which can be used with either two-touch technique or constant contact and provides the highest level of tactile and audio transmission. 

Multi-terrain cane tips

  • Huju tip: Similar shape to a hockey stick. It is a hardwearing, all-terrain tip suitable for uneven surfaces like gravel, sand and grass. Its design allows it to give good tactile and audio feedback and glide over all-terrains using constant contact cane technique. 
  • Dakota disk tip: A light and hollow disk shape designed to glide over uneven, softer surfaces such as sand, grass and gravel with constant contact technique. It is not designed to be used on hard surfaces such as pavement for long periods of time.
  • Omni-sense tip: A tip made from a combination of plastic wheels and rollers that allow the tip to move side to side and forward and backwards. It is designed to roll in a 360-degree motion using constant contact cane technique and provides increased audio feedback and designed to move easily over uneven surfaces.

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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