Deafblind Awareness: Red and White Canes

How often do you see a pedestrian with a cane and automatically assume that they are blind?

If you see a person with a completely white cane, this will usually mean they are blind, or visually impaired. Pedestrians with a red and white striped cane however, are deafblind (with both sight and hearing impairments).

Daphne is a Deafblind UK member and uses a red and white cane while out and about in her local area. “I’ve had a few near misses when cars beep at me, assuming I can hear them,” she said. “I will always stop and tell people, younger people especially, what my red and white cane means and I hope they will pass it on.”

Many deafblind people choose to use a cane to help them navigate obstacles while out and about, as well as to let other people know that they are deafblind and may need a bit more time to make decisions and movements, particularly if they are not familiar with their surroundings.

Some older deafblind people that have additional mobility complications will use a standard walking cane that they have adapted with red and white tape because it fits their additional needs. While there are a few varieties of cane, there are two main lengths that a person with sensory loss may use

– A full length cane is the most common, and used as a mobility aid

– Symbol canes are much shorter and are held close to the body to indicate deafblindness

If you’re a driver and see a pedestrian with a red and white cane, please remember that they may not be able to hear you, so simply beeping your car horn at them won’t necessarily alert them to your presence. A deafblind person may also cross a road at a slower pace; this is for their own safety so please be patient.

All road users are legally required to be aware of the Highway Code – and you can find an entire section on particularly vulnerable road users (including deafblind people) on the website – click here.

Did you know that a red and white cane is used to identify a deafblind person? Please download this graphic and help drivers and other pedestrians become more deafblind aware!

6 thoughts on “Deafblind Awareness: Red and White Canes”

  1. How do I get a deaf /blind red and white cane or walking stick? I live in Honiton, E. Devon. UK. A reply would be lovely. Thanks.JB.

  2. Hello. My name is Nobuyuki Takahashi, the president of Japan Federation of the Deafblind(JFDB). Please call me Tarzan.
    I’m interested in the Red-White cane for deafblind people. Because I would like to give information about the cane. How to get the cane?

    • Hello Tarzan, thank you for your message. I passed your query on to one of my colleagues, who has come back with the following:

      The UK main supplier is via the RNIB shop, https://shop.rnib.org.uk/mobility/canes.html I don’t know if they will ship internationally though! (it doesn’t say they will nor say they wont!)

      The supplier which supply to RNIB, is Ambutech which is based in the states, they do ship but the minimum order is $50 which depending on the type of cane wanted may not be sufficient value.

      A preferred product is based on a number of factors, 1) what do they want to do with it, is it just a symbol or for full mobility (full mobility really should be trained to use and I don’t know if Japan has that training), 2) the persons height as they are measured to the body (measurement varies by cane type, and even then when measured some prefer shorter or longer than the ‘standard’ size).

      I hope that helps?

  3. Hello, I have a couple of questions. What determines if a person is considered deafblind? I ask because I am both hearing and visually impaired so I am not totally blind nor totally deaf. Thanks to the help of hearing aids, I am able to communicate via speech.

    Is the red and white cane recognized as identification for deafblindness in the U.S.?

    • Hi Jennifer,
      The legal definition in England is that persons are regarded as Deafblind “if their combined sight and hearing impairment causes difficulties with communication, access to information and mobility. This includes people with a progressive sight and hearing loss” (Think Dual Sensory, Department of Health, 1995). This definition is published in the Deafblind Guidance issued under the Care Act (2014) for adults.

      The World Federation for the Deafblind follows the Nordic definition. This is “Deafblindness is a distinct disability. Deafblindness is a combined vision and hearing disability. It limits activities of a person and restricts full participation in society to such a degree that society is required to facilitate specific services, environmental alterations and/or technology.”

      What most definitions have in common is usually that they are about impacts, and are social definitions not medical.

      The cane in America is a red and white cane, but is not the same as the UK version. In the UK they tend to have several red stripes on the cane, in the USA they tend to have one deep stripe on the cane at the end nearest the ground.

      I hope this helps, if you would like any further information feel free to email info@deafblind.org.uk

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