For the past five years, Joel Everett has used a white cane to navigate his way around Orange and said he has been approached by people wanting to help.
Mr Everett said he appreciates people’s desire to help but wants them to ask first and to speak clearly if giving directions because it can be disorientating.
“If you talk to a person you might recognise the voice but you don’t know which way they are taking you,” he said.
His request comes after Guide Dogs Australia released recent survey results that found 64 per cent of people with a vision impairment who use a white cane to help them get around have been grabbed by people in public although they didn’t ask for help.
“I’ve been approached by people in town, I’ve literally had people turn around, get out of their car and ask me if I wanted a hand to cross the road,” Mr Everett said.
He said in other instances pedestrians have asked him if he wanted help to cross the road.
“It sometimes helps, it’s promising to know that there’s people who care but there’s also days where people stand in the middle [of the footpath or shopping centre] and they don’t see you [and make space],” Mr Everett said.
A recent survey has also found 67 per cent of people who use a white cane have reported that people approach their companions instead of them directly.
Mr Everett, who stood for council last year, said that is not an issue for him and people do speak to him directly but there are others who use a white cane who do find people address those they are with rather than them.
The canes are used by people with sight loss to navigate the path in front of them by feeling and detecting obstacles, changes in surfaces or the height of the ground, and allow people to negotiate crowded areas. The survey results were released as part of a Cane Do awareness campaign ahead of White Cane Day on October 15.
What you ‘Cane Do’:
- Ask the person using a white cane if they would like assistance and if so, how?
- If you see a person with a white cane, be aware and give them space to navigate
- Don’t be offended if a person with a white cane declines your offer of help – they may simply be confidently travelling independently or concentrating
- Alert the person with a white cane if they are in any immediate danger
- Report all hazards in public spaces to your local council
Types of White Canes
- Long canes are designed to physically detect obstacles as well as changes in height of the ground in front of the individual.
- Identification canes (ID canes) are smaller than long canes and the colour white lets other people know that the person holding the cane has reduced vision. Identification canes can be useful in difficult situations such as negotiating crowds or crossing roads.
- Support canes can be useful for people who experience problems with their balance when walking. A white support cane indicates sight loss.
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