The Cane Explained

Post date: 
Monday, 17 July 2017

After our first #HowISee campaign, you told us that one of your big issues was the misunderstanding of the white mobility cane.

What does the white cane mean to you?

Over one-third of blind and partially sighted people said that they sometimes, frequently or always experience negative attitudes from the public in relation to their sight loss especially when using a white cane (My Voice, RNIB).

Watch our film that 'explains the cane'; and find out how Jana, Robert, Emma, Shuraiya, Maya-Liam and Georgie use theirs.


Your stories

Find out more about what our six cane users think. All have very different opinions!

"I would like for the public to have a general awareness of the cane and to know that it does not mean one particular thing or define the person relying on it." - Robert, long cane user.



Join RNIB Connect

Want to find out more about key issues like this one? RNIB Connect is a free community where you can share your thoughts and issues with a wider, stronger community of blind and partially sighted people.

You can email us at [email protected], call 0303 123 9999 or click the button below.

Join RNIB Connect

Help explain the cane

Would you like posters of the different types of cane for your office, surgery or other communal area?

Email [email protected] to request bundles of five or 10 A4 posters. We have a limited amount available so make sure to get your request in as soon as possible.

Order posters


Can you name all four canes?

We want to increase awareness with the general public, to help blind and partially sighted people feel more at ease when using their canes. To do this, we've created a simple infographic that demonstrates what the different types of cane are, and what you'd use them for. You can download a fully accessible PDF of the infographic (65.62 KB) or read on to find out more about canes.

a graphic of a stick person using a symbol cane

Symbol cane

To say you have low but useful vision

You hold the symbol cane in front of you to let people around you know that you’re partially sighted. It’s particularly useful in busy places.

Graphic shows a stick man using a guide cane

Guide cane

To find obstacles before they find you!

You hold a guide cane diagonally across your body and then use it to find obstacles in front of you such as kerbs or steps.



Graphic of a stick person using a long cane

Long cane

To avoid obstacles if you have restricted or no vision

Once you’ve been trained to use a long cane, you roll or tap it from side to side as you walk, to find your way and avoid obstacles.

graphic shows a stick man with a red and white banded cane

Red and white banded cane 

To show you have low hearing and vision

Red and white banded canes of all types show that you have a hearing impairment as well as sight loss.


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