A long white cane is a universally recognized signal to others that the person who is using it is blind or is seriously visually impaired. However, the use of a long white cane is much more than that: used appropriately, it is a mobility device used to probe the immediate surrounding area that signals changes in height (think of stepping up or down stairs or curbs), that something is nearby (such as a wall or cabinet or chair), or that there is rough terrain ahead (requiring very careful footing, such as sidewalks that have skewed up or down when compared to the previous block).
According to the American Foundation for the Blind:
“As teachers of orientation and mobility (O&M) have gained increasing experience teaching travel to young children, growing numbers of O&M instructors and families have come to consider mobility device instruction a vital component of O&M training for young children with severe visual impairments. Use of kiddie canes and alternative mobility devices has been associated with the emergence of free movement and exploration, quick and sure gait patterns, efficient muscle use, good posture, muscle strength, and coordination.”
White canes, or pre-canes, can be adapted for your child, and will need to be adjusted or new ones provided or purchased as your child grows in height.
Sources for White Canes
Your Orientation and Mobility (O&M) specialist who works with you as part of your Individualized Education Plan (IEP) should be able to provide additional information on how to obtain a white cane for your child at no additional cost to you. Sometimes you may be required to pay a difference between a basic cane and one with more advanced features if that is what is desired.
Free white canes are also available from the National Federation of the Blind. These are rigid fiberglass white canes. For more information, go to: https://nfb.org/free-cane-program. An application is required.
Various end tips for white canes can also be ordered from Lighthouse International. For more information, go to: http://shop.lighthouseguild.org/collections/canes
If other sources are exhausted, you might also be able to obtain a cane at little or no cost through your local chapter of Lions Club International. To find your local club, enter your city and state (or other address) at the following website: https://directory.lionsclubs.org/