Getting around is important whether it's around your home, around your office or around your city. Below are resources to help you accomplish your mobility goals.
SAAVI (Southern Arizona for the Visually Impaired) offers many programs, one of which is Mobility and Orientation.
Guide dogs are assistance dogs trained to lead blind or vision impaired people around obstacles. They work for about six to eight years, but some dogs work longer. Most dogs are about 2-1/2 when they start working. Volunteer puppy raisers start when the puppies are approximately eight weeks old, and return them between 13 and 18 months old. Raisers are responsible for teaching the puppies good house manners and basic obedience, and most importantly, socializing them to the world.
Often, people with vision loss need some assistance with walking safely outside their familiar environment. Perhaps a friend or family member may try to help by holding your hand or having you rest your hand on his or her shoulder. While well intended, these methods are not safe and can lead to accidents.
Sighted Guide is a method sighted people should use when guiding a blind person. Sighted Guide skills are designed to help two people maximize safety and efficiency when walking together. It is easy to learn and takes little practice. It is designed to allow the two companions to navigate easily and safely and be able to converse comfortably. The basic concept is to let the blind or visually impaired person take your arm and follow the movement of the sighted person's body, giving the blind person autonomy.
It wasn't until the 20th Century that the white cane was promoted for use by the blind. Today it is recognized as an international symbol of sight loss and allows the person carrying it the right of way!
Traditionally, the "long cane" is so named because it is much longer than the orthopedic cane, frequently reaching to the chin. Long canes are often white in color with a red tip. In colonial times canes were usually hand made of wood, bamboo, or steel, but in the 1800s manufactured canes became more common.
Historically, the manner in which blind persons used the cane varied from one individual to another, and most blind travelers developed their own cane techniques, although in times past blind persons commonly have shared their knowledge with one another. Some European schools began developing formalized training in the late 1800's which in most cases did not address effective use of the cane. In the United States such training was commonly presented at residential schools for the blind, often only in the weeks just before graduation.
Conventional white canes have changed little in their design since the 1940s. They have been generally made of aluminum although with the development of lighter weight, more durable materials, fiberglass or carbon fiber have become more common. Designed for the purpose of independent non-visual travel, their length is usually determined by the individual's height, length of stride, and personal preferences.
Early cane tips were only slightly larger in diameter than the cane shaft and either made of metal or nylon. Lately, new types of tips have been developed to address problems caused by sidewalk cracks and changes in techniques. These canes tend to be longer and lighter, with tapered, hollow, semi flexible, fiberglass shafts; they also have metal tips designed to produce superior auditory and tactile information that aids the traveler with echolocation and recognizing changes in surfaces.
Why White Cane Travel is Important - the opinion of someone visually impaired
How to Acquire a White Cane
Using a cane takes practice and training if you want to live through it. Buying a cane for someone who has no training is as irresponsible an act as any other foolish thing can be. With that little bit of self-righteousness out of the way, here are some sources for canes for those of you who know what you want.
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has a no-strings attached free white cane program. Click that link to get an application and read their spiel. This is some of what they say: "We believe the long white cane is a means to independence. The white cane has proved a useful tool to millions of blind people in navigating their environments with confidence and safety. It is a tool which allows blind people to travel where and when they want, and as such leads to self-sufficiency. We believe that independence and freedom to travel are so important to the quality of life of blind people that every blind person should have a cane, regardless of ability to pay. We are giving, free of charge to the user, straight fiberglass canes." The canes are available from 25 to 63 inches long.
Short List of Cane Sources
When comparing prices be sure to factor in all the charges. Often a company that has free shipping will charge more for the item than the company with regular shipping. Nothing is really free, but some prices are better than others in the final tally. We like Amazon because, so far, they have been unfailingly reliable, but definitely do shop around. They have many canes for sale, both directly and on behalf of other vendors and offer a very big selection. They ship UPS for free with no minimum order if you can wait perhaps a week.
Independent Living Aids, also known as ILA, also has a good selection. They ship UPS.
MaxiAids sells canes as well as many nifty things, and will ship orders over twenty five dollars for free if you're not in any hurry.
If you are in a hurry, call SAAVI in Tucson at 795-1331 to go in and pick up a cane right away. They have a good selection and excellent prices, and they have people on staff who know what they're talking about and who won't try to push anything on you.
AAA Livery, (520) 299-8294
AAA Medex, (520) 388-9130
Allstate Wheelchair-Stretcher, (520) 798-1111
American Pony Express Inc, (520) 888-2996
Handi Car Inc, (520) 881-3391
Yellow Cab Tucson, (520) 300-3000