I have just searched the Internet with Google and called the NFB, but the product I want doesn’t seem to exist. I’m hoping I’m wrong about this, but I am right depressingly often.
I want a long white cane for a blind person like me who likes traveling, hiking, swimming, boating, and climbing or scrambling over rocks. I don’t actually like biking that much, but I have a double bike and want to use it sometimes. The problem is that my usual NFB type 2 long ridged fiberglass cane can not be packed away conveniently when it is not in use. I have a hard time holding on to it while climbing or crawling, and it obviously doesn’t fit on a bike with me. I want one I can throw in a backpack when I don’t need it, or as a spare in case my cane breaks while I’m a long way from home.
Yes, everyone knows there are folding canes out there. They are metal, have a plastic blob for a tip, and fold in to 4 parts. I used to use one, but can’t imagine doing so again. I am way too used to a light-weight cane. If I tried to hike with a metal one now my wrist would certainly become sore. I also remember having irritated skin from the rubber of the handles on those canes. I definitely wouldn’t want one with white tape wrapped around it to make it the correct color, because my habit of putting my cane in water would not allow it to last very long. Having only 4 sections and being metal would also make it harder to pack then I’d really like.
I have tried the telescoping carbon fiber canes. They are fantastically light-weight, very sensitive, and easy to pack. Unfortunately mine has a terrible habit of telescoping suddenly without warning when the tip hits something with slightly more force than usual. Even though I am not leaning my weight on the cane, it tends to throw me off balance a little. That isn’t so bad under normal circumstances, but is not something I want to risk when a little shift in balance could throw me over a cliff. I found that the one I have is extremely fragile as well.
I have gone inside many sporting goods stores to see what cool things exist that I couldn’t justify buying either because the stuff was extremely expensive, or because I’m not quite that into hiking, camping, boating, or whatever. I’ve seen really neat trekking poles. They were made of carbon fiber, were very light-weight and strong, collapsed in to a convenient carrying size, and had a mechanism to prevent collapsing when in use. The problem with these poles was their tips. They were usually a pretty sharp point that would dig in to the ground. That’s a useful property for a climber’s pole, but quite bad for a blind person’s cane. I need my cane tip to glide over the ground easily to find obstacles and texture, not to stick somewhere and jab me in the gut or chest. I also carry a white cane so that other people know I am blind. A hiking pole of some kind would not work for that purpose.
Now you know what I don’t want. Let me explain what I do want, and what I believe would be the perfect “sports” cane for many blind people.
I want a cane that like a climber’s pole is strong enough to take most of my weight without breaking or collapsing. It should be light-weight and packable. It must have a gliding tip, and be white for identification as a cane for a blind person. It should also be unharmed by dunks in water. It has often been a very good thing that my current fiberglass cane floats. I would prefer a plastic handle with a string of some kind to hang it up by, or occasionally to loop around my wrist for safety. And the tip should be changeable when it wares out, or to suit different people’s preferences and differing terrain. I usually like the round metal tip on my cane because it glides nicely where I usually walk, but I discovered it is not really the best tip for use in Europe where there are so many little grooves between cobblestones and outdoor tiles for it to get stuck in. I don’t know what kind of tip would be best for hiking. am sure canes could be made that would fulfill all my qualifications. I already have a cane that folds in half that fulfills all of them except being able to put it in a bakpack.
Fiber glass and carbon fiber work well for light but strong poles, but there may be materials I am unaware of that would work well. A stretchy string inside the cane could keep the pieces together when collapsed, but I believe it should not be the method by which the cane is held together when in use. The cord must be quite heavy to accomplish that, which would add weight. The cords also tend to wear out. It takes a little extra time to have segments that screw together, but this could ensure they stay assembled and the parts of the pieces that overlap could ensure that the cane would not come apart at the seams. If the pieces fit together very tightly with lots of overlap it might be sufficient to prevent it from coming apart suddenly while in use. I suspect a telescoping design could work if there were pegs to hold the cane extended when in use–a little like an umbrella’s handle. I just don’t know if that works with any material besides metal.
If you have read this far and either have a feature that should be added, or know where I could purchase a cane similar to the one I have described, please send me a tweet, a skype chat line, or send an E-mail to the username mail at this domain.