Friday, 5 April 2013

Coloured Cane Controversy

A picture of me wearing light purple doc marten lace up boots, a dress, brightly patterned leggings and a denim jacket. I am also holding a bright yellow cane.Today I had the delightful experience of receiving a parcel in the post. Who doesn't love it when that happens? It's like a present to yourself has magically appeared on your doorstep. My excitement escalated when I realised it was my bright yellow mobility cane from RNIB via Ambutech. I ordered it a month and a bit ago; but it took it's time to arrive because the canes are custom manufactured in Canada. I ordered the cane itself for use where my trusty guide dog cannot help me out, such as noisier films at the cinema, my hopefully upcoming trip abroad, and more commonly to help me to and from science labs at school. The cane itself is a lovely ultralight graphite model with an excellent grip on the handle. However delighted I was on it's arrival there was a part of me that knew that the cane wouldn't go down well with everybody.

When in the past I, or friends of mine, have talked about coloured canes on social networks we have been met with a variety of opinions. It is one of the newer topics in the visually impaired community to cause controversy and some people feel very strongly about it. Coloured canes have been produced for children for quite some time, but have only in the last few years started gaining popularity with adults and young people. I can understand the viewpoint of some of the arguments presented to me: a white cane is used worldwide to represent visual impairment and is a statement as well as a practical aid. The main point here is: "What if people don't realise your disability by the change in colour?". I understand why this might be a concern, but I can't fathom why people should oppose to coloured canes as a whole because of this. In my opinion the use of these canes is not making visual impairment any more difficult to understand to the public. A skill that is important for anyone with any kind of disability is being able to accept and ask for help when you need it. Otherwise, you should just try to be as independent as you can however you feel most comfortable! Though the general public can be rude, patronising and challenging at times I think this argument is giving them less credit than they deserve. Anyway, why does it matter how strangers perceive you?  If you want to support the symbol of visual impairment, then use a white cane by all means, but what about people who don't want to?

Where as I am not shy to admit that I have a disability and to raise awareness by talking about it I do not want to be, and fight against being, a walking representation of sight loss. I am a teenage girl, who loves words, series box-sets, Doc Marten boots and the colour yellow. However, to the outside world I am seen regularly as 'the blind girl' but I refuse to think about myself in that way. I am Imi and I am visually impaired. Not: 'A visual impaired person who happens to be called Imi'. This article is my personal opinion on my own situation only, I know a lot of people who shine with confidence and the colour of a cane makes no difference to. 

A picture of me raising my new cane in a sword like manner.Anyway, I ordered the cane in yellow because I thought it would be fun and look nice. Nothing more to it than when someone buys a pair of shoes. A mobility aid is something which you use a lot, and so why should you use something you don't feel comfortable with? In my opinion it isn't anything more than a freedom of choice and if you are happy using a white cane then good on you! The cane that lives in school to get me to and from science is a large, stiff and clunky white cane. When people see me walk towards them they will a) move out of the way and b) be reminded of the fact I am visually impaired. I don't think using a coloured cane affects this much because anyone sweeping for objects and navigating with a cane clearly has some kind of difficulty in seeing. The only thing that it adds for me is personality, which is something that sometimes people forget I have in the midst of my disability. And although I still have a white cane, and I understand the situations where it's representation to my sight loss is valuable, I am proud of the fact I have made a choice which will make me more confident in my appearance. I would encourage anyone struggling with the image of being a cane user to try a coloured cane because it could make a huge difference to your self esteem. The canes are available from phone order from RNIB and custom orders are available from QAC. 


  1. I don't want a coloured cane myself but I don't mind other people using them, as long as it works for you that's what matters.

    1. I completely agree! Thanks for commenting.