With the celebration of International White Cane Day on 15 October we highlight the impact of this very important aid.

Add the letter E to the end of the word can and we have the word cane, an innovation that brings independent mobility and safety to people. So much so they ‘can do’

The white cane is the most widely used mobility aid among people who are blind or have low vision.

The Long Cane is tailored to suit the height, length of pace and hand position of each individual user and was scientifically designed and constructed of aluminium alloy with a nylon tip.  This allows the efficient transmission tactile and sound information. It is a far cry from the previously used walking stick with which the user tapped his or her way around the streets and relied heavily on the helpfulness of others in the community and their own ingenuity.

The long cane was originally developed and taught by Dr Richard Hoover of the United States in the late 1940s when he realised there were very few, if any, systematic attempts being made to teach people with vision loss how to move and travel on their own. The graceful sweeping touch and slide technique now associated with the long cane allows the user to confidently move through his or her environment.  It enables the detection of a single step down such as a kerb, negotiation of a flight of stairs and to move safely and efficiently while avoiding obstacles both inside and outside.

Yvonne Thelning, wife of our amazing ambassador Clive Thelning,  became the first resident Mobility Instructor with Guide Dogs SA/NT in 1972.  Her initial task was to build a network of contacts so that those dealing with people with vision loss knew that the mobility service was available. 

So, throughout our history we have been #morethandogs.

Guide Dog users also need to be proficient in the use of the white cane for times, such as hot weather, when their dogs are unable to work.  Children – as they aren’t old enough yet to be considered for a Guide Dog – are taught the use of the white cane. Some customise them with their favourite colours!

In 2012 Shianne and her best friend Nevaeh aged three were the youngest children in South Austraila to become white cane users.