For the Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired (OBVI) staff, support canes should be treated as a medical device and are prescribed by their doctor and their usage taught by a Physical Therapist for specific reasons. They can be used for stability, reduction of stress on specific joints, in situation of lowered stamina, or other physical factors.
Unfortunately, in the not so distant past, support canes have been given out without much thought in the Blind Rehabilitation field other than they can be used to identify vision loss for the individual. The folding Hycor support cane is an example of canes given out inappropriately in the past because individuals didn't what to carry a long cane, and the Hycor cane folded up and could be put away.
The Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired (OBVI), staff are not really in a position to prescribe support canes.
However, an example of a good replacement cane is the adjustable Ambutech support cane of the same length. This type of cane provides excellent support and is white for identification. White tape on a cane helps with identification of vision loss.
Some individuals say they need a support cane but have not been prescribed one by their doctor. It is possible they should be using a long cane to feel in front of them, instead of a support cane beside them.
In a situation such as this, a support cane should be discouraged, and a folding ID cane should be recommended (one of the graphite ID canes is an excellent example). With this type of folding ID cane, they can choose to use it instead of the support cane. At least they have a choice.
When ordering an ID cane, a basic measurement to mid-chest or "arm pit" high will be fine. The specific length to touch where the feet land is not as critical as when using a long cane in the two-point touch technique.
When they get the ID cane, a follow up lesson with the basic diagonal technique is recommended. This technique gives them the opportunity to utilize their residual vision (visual scanning) while the cane picks up any drop-offs or obstacles they may encounter.
One of the strengths of the Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired is indoor orientation training. Additionally, teaching orientation and sighted guide skills to the family members can enhance confidence and travel. Additionally, a presentation to the staff of nursing homes on using the Sighted Guide Techniques and how to be consistent when providing orientation to new residents would be useful when they have a turnover of staff.
Comments written by Tom Langham, Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired