Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Independent Living Resources Series: My Rights May 2023

White Canes

My Rights May

Spring has definitely sprung, and we got some great options for inexpensive exploration in Choose Your Own Adventure April. Now, we’ll delve into the laws that protect our right to travel independently in My Rights May.

In this third installment of our “My Rights May” series, we discuss white canes – the inexpensive tools that provide freedom of movement and opportunities for independent travel for blind/low vision individuals.

White Cane Rights

Like guide dog users, users of white canes have the right to use their canes in public places based on federal civil rights laws and state laws. Additionally, many states have specific White Cane Laws that confer additional rights. Maryland also has additional orientation and mobility protections for K-12 students.

Reasonable accommodations under Federal and state laws and regulations

Last week, in the Bridges Blog post, Guide Dogs and Public Places, we discussed sources of law that (1) entitle disabled individuals with the right to use “reasonable accommodations” in public places and (2) protect those individuals from discrimination based on disability – like guide dog use, white cane use is protected by these same laws:

Federal laws:

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)

MD State Government Code § 20-304

MD State Government Code § 20-305

Additional protections for white cane users in Maryland

Like many states, Maryland has a “White Cane Law.” In Maryland, the White Cane Law provides the following legal protections:

Maryland laws:

MD Code, Human Services, § 7-704

MD Code, Human Services, § 7-705

MD Code, Human Services, § 7-706

MD Code, Human Services, § 7-707

MD Transportation Code § 21-511

Additional protections for Maryland’s blind/low vision students in K-12 schools

COMAR 13A.05.01.08A(6)(a)-(d).

Additionally, the Maryland State Department of Education has prepared a document that provides schools with guidance regarding O&M assessments. This document shares the importance of and keys to performing a thorough O&M assessment for blind/low vision students with an IEP. This document notes that O&M instruction in the community (off of school grounds) is both appropriate and necessary. Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Assessment Guidelines, 18-03 Technical Assistance Bulletin 18-03.

For more information on these laws and the protections they provide, please contact the Free Bridges Helpdesk.

Rights in Practice

As always, not everyone in our world understands (or even knows about) the legal rights of individuals with disabilities. Some are unfamiliar with the long white cane, and they may be inclined to discourage a white cane user from entering a public place, engaging in activities, or using a white cane at all.

As noted above, white cane users have the right to use their canes and freely enter and enjoy public places and activities. Nevertheless, you may need to share information about your rights with others.

Please consider downloading and adding to your smartphone’s memory this resource from the Bridges Technical Assistance Center: “White Canes in Maryland.”

Also, please reach out to us at the Free Bridges Helpdesk anytime with any questions, concerns, needs for assistance, etc. We are always eager to hear from you!

Where to Get a White Cane

Free White Cane Program

If you have never used a white cane before, or you just want to try out NFB’s model of cane, you can order a free white cane from the NFB every six months at no cost. This cane is a straight fiberglass cane with a metal tip. Other types of canes through NFB are not part of the white cane program but can be purchased from the NFB Independence Market.

Get your free white cane by filling out the Free NFB White Cane form.

How Do I Purchase a Cane?

You can purchase a cane through a variety of places. Some popular choices include:

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Bridge’s Technical Assistance Center’s Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *