Which one is better for the blind? White Cane vs. Guide Dog

Peter Crumley
4 minutes reading time
October 5, 2020

There seems to be a long-standing debate among the blind about a better approach to facilitating mobility:  a white cane, or a guide dog.

Peter Crumley and his leader dog crossing the street

Personally, as a blind person, I use both. Depending on the situation, a white cane or a leader dog provides me the mobility support I need concerning the venue selection or transportation/walking requirements.

I believe the debate, when structured as a white cane vs. guide dog, is a false one. I think both resources as individual mobility tools are components of the total mobility package because different situations require different solutions. This package brings all available mobility tools together to work in harmony instead of being expected only to support the blind as stand-alone aids.

There are times that I will choose not to use my leader dog as when the required walking distances are minimal, or the venue to be visited is very loud. If my leader dog will be in harness for long periods without being asked to perform any task or is forced to tough it through unpleasant situations unnecessarily, such as in a venue hosting a live band, I prefer the white cane.

On the other hand; I will ensure my guide dog is present if longer walks are required to reach the desired venue as I definitely want his skills available to me to avoid obstructions that I might miss with my white cane or what my sighted spouse might not have identified, missed or assumed I would be aware of their presence. So as described, choosing the white cane or a guide dog becomes a conscious choice based on a which is one best suited for the situation.

The problem here is that to make these types of decisions require detailed knowledge of the route and destination venue. I choose to use my leader dog, even when walking with my sighted spouse, in locations that I am unfamiliar with. This creates a more fluid and safer walking experience. So the choice is an either/or decision instead of one versus the other.

Pros and Cons of White Cane and Guide Dog

Both white cane and guide dogs have pros and cons. Using a white cane will yield a better definition of the space if one takes the time to investigate slowly. In contrast, a guide dog will allow for a more natural walking experience as the blind walker doesn't have to interpret the landscape before taking every individual step forward.

Additionally, there are times when both the white cane and guide dog are required to be used together. As a leader dog walker, we are always instructed to have a white cane available for investigation when our leader dog displays trained disobedience by refusing to proceed forward. When this happens, the walker should use the white cane to determine if the danger can be identified to calculate a path forward.

While all guide dogs are amazing creatures, they still lack the ability to read minds. Thus, they require directional prompting from their master, and achieving guide dog facilitated mobility requires a team effort. A successful trip depends on the master's ability to provide accurate directional prompting to the guide dog.

The master of any guide dog must also possess good orientation and mobility skills; yes, another essential part of the total mobility package. Guide dogs will indeed guide the known routes and venues. Still, there are often new experiences to be dealt with, meaning the master must have the necessary orientation/mobility skills to direct the guide dog to the desired destination.

What should be included in the total mobility package for the blind?

Now that I have added the third component to the total mobility package, it is time to add the fourth one to finalize the full package's construction, that is Accessible Mobile Technology. Since I am writing for the Supersense blog, I must discuss accessible technology as a component of the total mobility package in addition to the cane versus dog discussion. It is important to understand that mobility for blind walkers should include all available tools into a total mobility package to accomplish safe, independent travel.

The major components are personal orientation/mobility skills, white cane skills, a guide dog, and accessible mobile technology. Otherwise, a blind walker might remain lost. Inserting accessible mobile technology into the total mobility package enhances the blind walking experience, allowing for increased confidence, safety, and independence.

There are many available applications facilitating mobility, designed specifically for the blind. Supersense is known as a text capturing app with some independent living features. The ability of Supersense to locate, capture, and then read the text in the environment assists the blind walker to make the right choice. Especially at times like when one should differentiate between a men's and women's public bathroom entrances. Additionally, there are other features that blind walker needs, for instance, when shopping, such as reading the barcodes to identify the products or determining cash at checkout using the currency channel.

These are just a few examples of Supersense features that aid the blind walker, making the app a must-consider option for a robust, personalized, and accessible mobile technological support package for the blind walker.

In conclusion, the debate should not be a white cane versus guide dog but rather a conversation about constructing a personalized total mobility package to achieve an enhanced level of mobility, independence, and societal inclusion.

An illustration of a smartphone

Download Supersense

Supersense is one of the most downloaded and highest rated apps for the blind on both App Store and Google Play. We constantly add new features and and enhance the existing ones. Download and try it for free!

iOS AppStore Download Google Play Store Download

Let's Talk!

We’d love to have a conversation. If you are a part of the blind and visually impaired community, you’d like to be part of our mission, or share your ideas and collaborate with us, get in touch with us.

We are based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Fill out the form below to reach us or email us at info@mediate.tech

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.


by Mediate

Copyright © 2020 Supersense
All rights reserved

Supersense is a trademark of Virtual Collaboration Research Inc.

Stay up to date
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.