Touch technique with your long cane

A guide to using a cane to locate different changes in the floor surface, such as steps and texture, by keeping the cane tip on the ground and letting it slide slightly forward.

There are seven elements to the touch technique: Grip, hand position, arm position, wrist action, arc width, arc height and step.

  1. Grip – Using whichever hand you prefer to hold the cane with, extend your index finger along the flat side of the handle. Your grip should be very light, almost as though the cane is resting between the middle finger and thumb. Think of your cane as an extension of your arm and index finger.
  2. Hand position – Your hand should be no more than halfway down the handle to prevent the cane going into your stomach if you contact something while walking.
  3. Arm position – Your arm should remain close to your side with the cane held in a “handshake” position (central). It may help to tuck your elbow into your waist as this can offer some support.
  4. Wrist position – All the movement should be from your wrist. It should be a side-to-side movement rather than a rolling movement.
  5. Arc width – The arc shape that you make with the cane should extend around three – four inches each side of your body. As you walk, scan the cane across your body, making sure the cane is consistently checking both sides giving you adequate protection from obstacles.
  6. Arc height – For the ‘Touch N Slide’ technique your long cane should remain in constant touch with the ground. If you are using the ‘Two-Point Touch’ technique your cane should be no more than two-three inches from the ground at the centre of the arc. 
  7. Step – As you step down your long cane should touch down on the opposite side of your leading foot. This is known as ‘Walking in step’ and helps to keep you protected.

Disclaimer: This information has been designed for existing cane users and should only be used as a refresher or alongside skills you have already learnt. If you would like to know more about the benefits of long cane training, please contact your local authority’s sensory team.