When I first started using a blindness cane, I wasn’t sure what kind of cane tip to purchase for my first cane, and ended up buying a random pencil cane tip on Amazon because it was the first result for “blindness cane.” What I didn’t realize at the time was that the pencil tip cane would not be a great fit for me as a college student using a constant contact method, and I was incredibly frustrated with my cane until I met with a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) who introduced me to the rolling marshmallow tip. Up until that point, I had no idea there were so many different types of blindness cane tips available, and felt like I had “cracked the code” for figuring out how to effectively use a blindness cane. Here are some of the most popular blindness cane tips used by blind and low vision people around the world.
I am not a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS), and I strongly recommended working with a COMS from the state department for visual impairment or vocational rehabilitation prior to purchasing or using a blindness cane for the first time. I cannot make individual recommendations for what cane someone should use, or if they should be using a cane at all. The information provided here is for informational purposes only, and is written from the perspective of a person with low vision who has been using a blindness cane since 2015.
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 loss 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 I know 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.
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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.
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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.
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 and allows 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- the marshmallow tip appears in the emoji for blindness canes as well.
The ball tip rotates like the marshmallow tip. It is much larger in size, with the largest tip being the size of an orange. The ball tip 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 where the cane tip is always on the ground. I used to have a glow in the dark cane with a ball tip that I used when I have to walk near areas with traffic at night, and now have a large ball tip that I bring when I am walking on uneven terrain.
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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.
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. My friend likes to use it when walking to work in the snow-covered New England area, though I do not personally own one since I don’t live in a snowy area.
The LED cane tip is a cane tip 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 wanted to highlight these as an option.
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. I prefer to customize the body of my cane instead of the cane tip.
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.