Last night, I was telling my friend about my first blindness cane that I had bought, long before I knew about how there are different tips for blindness canes. My first cane was awkward to use and frequently got stuck in sidewalk cracks because I had no idea what I was doing or why I was using a cane. Since then, I have learned that I use my blindness cane to assist with orientation and mobility, not just to identify myself as visually impaired. Today, I will be decoding the popular types of blindness cane tips and sharing what they do. I highly recommend reading my post on cane colors first- read more about decoding the colors of blindness canes here.
The pencil tip cane is a thin, straight piece of plastic on the bottom of a cane, almost like a magician’s wand. It does not provide very much feedback compared to other cane tips and is often used for identification purposes, so that someone with vision impairment can alert others of their condition. The pencil tip cane can be seen on the television screen in the show “Pretty Little Liars” and is used by blind character Jenna Marshall, though most blind people use other types of cane tips. A real-life example of someone using a pencil tip cane would be my low vision friend using their cane to navigate at night when it is harder to see obstacles, or another friend using it to navigate a school hallway to alert surrounding students that they have trouble seeing. Read more about navigating school hallways here.
The mushroom tip has a small rounded bottom, like an upside down mushroom. They have a greater surface area than pencil tip canes and can provide more information about surfaces as a result. It’s common to see someone tapping this type of cane instead of having it glide across the floor like a rolling tip cane, but some people prefer to have it glide across the floor as well. One of my friends prefers this cane because they often use their cane indoors when navigating to class. Read more about how I navigate campus here.
Silver circle tip
The silver circle tip is a thin and flat silver colored metal disk that screws on to the bottom of a cane. It is the cane tip that is used in the signature NFB rigid white cane, and is a favorite of many blind people because it can go across any type of surface with ease and gives audio feedback. This cane tip can be used on any type of cane, not just the NFB cane. Many of my friends that have been totally blind since birth love this cane tip and use it daily.
Rolling marshmallow tip
The rolling marshmallow tip looks like a marshmallow and can rotate 360 degrees. It is one of the most common cane tips because it allows for users to go across a variety of surfaces with ease and have constant contact with the ground. This is my everyday cane and I have tons of friends that use it as well. Read more about my love letter to my cane after two years together here.
The ball tip rotates like the marshmallow tip, but is much larger in size, with the largest tip being the size of an orange. It is great when learning how to use a cane, or for walking for long periods of time without wearing down a cane tip. It can be fairly heavy, so it works best for constant contact techniques. I have a glow in the dark cane with a ball tip that I use when I have to walk near areas with traffic at night, though I usually prefer to call a security escort if I am traveling alone- read more about calling a security escort here.
The hockey tip, sometimes referred to as a snow cane or all terrain cane, looks like the bottom of a hockey stick. It’s a specialty cane used for walking across snow, sand, ice, or other more unpredictable surfaces, and isn’t necessarily used as an every day cane, unless someone walks on the beach every day. I use this cane when I have to walk on campus in the snow- read more about staying warm with a blindness cane here.
Dakota snow tip
The Dakota snow tip is shaped like a frisbee and can easily roll across snow-covered surfaces. It is a great snow cane for people who love the rolling marshmallow tip but don’t want to get stuck in the snow. My friend likes to use it when walking to work in the snow-covered New England area.
The LED cane tip can be any of these types of cane tips with LED lights added so that it can light up. Having a light up cane tip can be awesome for night travel, and little kids tend to get really excited about having lights on their cane similar to light-up shoes. There is also a model that flashes every time a cane touches the ground. Due to my photosensitivity, I stay away from these cane tips and my friends do not use them around me, but I know how helpful they can be.
Not all blindness cane tips come in white. Other common colors available include red, pink, green, and more. Some people will say that colored cane tips are a distraction, but it is up to personal preference to decide what color works best. All of my cane tips are white, though it would be interesting to customize a light purple cane tip, since purple is my favorite color.
So what cane tip should I use?
It’s up to you and your orientation and mobility instructor to decide which cane tip works best for your needs. Preferences can change over time, and it’s not uncommon to own canes with several different cane tips. By decoding the tips of blindness canes, users can learn what cane tip works for them and navigate the world safely and independently.