White Cane Safety Awareness—Brought to You by our Student Ambassadors

Nicole Kada and Natalie Schoenfeld—two Cengage Student Ambassadors—come together to talk about the white cane. Nicole Kada, who’s legally blind, discusses how the white cane has helped her. Natalie Schoenfeld, who’s sighted, discusses the white cane from a sighted person’s perspective. Together, they hope to bring awareness about the significance of the white cane.

Become more familiar with White Cane Awareness.

Nicole’s Experience

The white cane has been a useful tool for me since I was a child. However, as a child, I didn’t value the cane as much as I do now. This is for two reasons:

1. I didn’t want to be viewed differently by my peers and feared not being accepted.

2. I always held onto someone’s arm whenever I went somewhere.

As I got older, I used my cane more often and held on to arms less. Now as a college student, I take my cane everywhere!

My cane helps me in my everyday life in more ways than can be listed. A few things the white cane assists with is:

  • Navigating stairs
  • Crossing streets
  • Finding my classes

It’s helpful with going up and down stairs—my cane drops to let me know I’m going down and how far down to step. When I’m going up, it helps me know how far up to lift my feet with each step. Without my cane, I have anxiety taking stairs and would much prefer elevators.

Not only does my cane help with using and detecting stairs, it also helps me with crossing streets. The cane detects the tactile bumps and curbs at crosswalks before my feet do, which warns me to stop. When my cane hits the bumps, it allows me to feel the difference in the texture of the sidewalk. I can also hear the change because of the varying material the bumps are made from.

Finally, the cane helps me find classrooms. If I walk along the wall or shoreline the wall, I can count the openings of the doorways to find my classes.

The most important things my white cane has helped me with over the years? My independence skills and confidence.

“I can navigate and travel independently wherever I want to go—whether it’s school, shopping or even going on vacation. With my cane in my hand, I’m unstoppable!”

Natalie’s Perspective

I never quite understood the full reason or use for a white cane until meeting Nicole. Seeing my friend and coworker being independent and strong on her own with the use of a white cane was inspiring! Having the opportunity to see how she lives drastically changed the way I think about people with impaired vision.

I grew up in a small town and hadn’t seen a white cane—or at least didn’t understand who/why they were used—until I was in college. There are many students at Ohio State University who are visually impaired and use various forms of assistance to get around campus—either with a cane, guide dogs or by getting help from friends/assistants. I knew these things helped, but I wasn’t sure how.

For me, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like in someone else’s shoes. Nicole used her cane for anything and everything. It’s amazing to see how much she can do with her cane.

For someone who’s not aware of white canes, this might seem unfamiliar. People might think someone who’s visually impaired doesn’t have an exact path or knowledge of where they’re going. However, these people learn the most efficient paths to take. They may even catch on to those routes faster than people with normal vision due to their attention to detail.

Regarding safety, if you see someone with a white cane, give them ample distance to protect both yourself and them. You can see them, but they’re not always aware you’re there. Be courteous and understanding. If you’re in someone’s way or are impairing their ability to move or use their white cane, kindly move. Make someone’s day—be respectful and understanding of them.

Tell us about your experience with the white cane—whether you use one or have witnessed someone with one.

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