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by Abigail Van Buren

White Canes Give Confidence to the Visually Impaired

DEAR ABBY: I have lost a large portion of my vision, and will be trained soon in the use of a white cane. Although I still have some vision left, I often bump into things when I'm in unfamiliar surroundings. I'm sure the cane will be helpful and make me feel more secure.

There is something I think is important for your readers to know. When they see someone with a white cane, it does not necessarily mean the person is totally blind. I have read of instances where people were using their cane, but perhaps sat down at a bus stop and read a text on their cellphone. These people were accused of being fakes.

I am still able to read a newspaper, but I can no longer drive. I'm unable to see at night, and the loss of my peripheral vision has become dangerous for me. Please let your readers know that a person with a white cane may still be able to see to some degree, but they do need the cane for their own safety. -- SAFETY FIRST

DEAR SAFETY FIRST: Thank you for your letter. When I looked online for more information about white canes, I learned there are many different kinds. They include the "symbol cane," which is held to let others know the person is blind or vision-challenged. It's carried when out in public to remind others to be careful about possibly colliding with him or her.

Other canes are the "guide cane" and the "long cane," which are used to detect objects in front of the sightless person, to prevent tripping on curbs, steps or other objects. (There are also red-and-white banded canes, which indicate the person carrying one has a hearing impairment as well as sight loss.)

Readers, I know it's easy to be cynical, but if you see someone with a white cane, please do not accuse the person of faking, because he or she is contending with enough challenges already.

Read more in: Health & Safety