This International White Cane Day (15 October) we’re sharing what you ‘Cane Do’ to best assist people who use a white cane, after new research revealed many Australians don’t understand how they should help.
While a survey of the Australian public* showed most people feel they know how to provide appropriate assistance to a person with a white cane, two thirds of Australians who use white canes** said they have been grabbed or handled by someone even though they didn’t ask for help.
Guide Dogs Queensland CEO Michael Kightley said while the majority of the time efforts to help a person with sight loss are well intentioned, going about it the wrong way could have a major impact on their mobility and safety.
“By grabbing a person with a white cane by the arm to help them onto public transport or across the road without asking, you can very easily disorient them or break the concentration they are using to follow a path to their destination,” Mr Kightley said.
“The most simple, effective and helpful thing you can do, is directly ask a person using a white cane if they need assistance before trying to help.
“Always introduce yourself to the person and follow their lead of how they would like to receive help. They may ask you to guide them by taking your arm, simply ask for directions, or decline your assistance if they’re confident travelling on their own.”
International White Cane Day is all about recognising the importance of the white cane and how it can help people who are blind or have low vision. We ask that you say ‘Cane Do’ to being mindful of how to best assist people with low vision navigate our communities safely and independently.
What you ‘Cane Do’ to help
- 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 confident 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
* Guide Dogs Australia commissioned a study, conducted by Yougov, of 1071 Australians in August 2018 to identify the Australian public’s knowledge and perceptions of white canes and how people with sight loss use them.
** Guide Dogs Australia also conducted a survey of 384 clients who use a white cane nationwide in August 2018 to identify issues they experience around mobility in the community.