Do I need a white stick and where can I get one from?

You don’t necessarily need a white stick or cane if you are blind or partially sighted, although many people do find them very useful.

There are three main types of white sticks or canes:

  • The first type is called a symbol cane and you simply hold it rather than use it to find obstacles in front of you. As the name suggests, it’s a way of letting other people know that you’re blind or partially sighted. It’s particularly useful in busy or crowded places as other people who see the cane should take a bit more care not to bump into you. You might also find that you get more offers of assistance from staff and members of the public because they can see that you have sight loss more easily.
  • The second type is called a guide cane and you use it to find obstacles in front of you. You hold it diagonally across your body and then use it to find obstacles such as kerbs or steps.
  • The third type is called a long cane and people who have been trained to use one roll or tap it from side to side, as they walk, to find their way and avoid obstacles.

Red and white banded canes of all types are available and these indicate that someone has a hearing impairment as well as sight loss.

Buying a white cane

You can buy different types and sizes of white canes, as well as other products to help you get out and about, from our online shop; however we recommend you contact your local social services if you need getting help out and about. They should be able to provide you with a cane for free and, if you need a guide or long cane, give you mobility training so that you know how to use one to get about safely.

Use the Sightline Directory and the keywords "social services" with a postcode.


For more information and advice about canes or purchasing them from RNIB please contact our Helpline on:

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