Bridges Resource Library

White Cane User Rights

Updated as of February 4, 2024.

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

Both federal and Maryland law entitle disabled individuals to use “reasonable accommodations” in public places and (2) protect those individuals from discrimination based on disability – and white cane use is protected by these 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:

  • The same rights other (sighted) individuals have
  • The right to be admitted to and enjoy public places without interference
  • Equitable rights to housing
  • The right to use a cane (primarily white or metallic in color)
  • Some protection if a blind/low vision individual does not use a cane or guide dog (in a lawsuit, such failure is not automatically considered negligence)

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

  • Presumption that orientation and mobility (O&M, including cane travel) instruction is appropriate for blind/low vision students with an IEP
  • If O&M instruction is not provided, the IEP team must get an O&M assessment that includes:
    • Input from teachers and family members
    • Current and future needs
    • Functioning in familiar and unfamiliar environments
    • Functioning under various lighting conditions

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 Bridges Technical Assistance Center: “White Cane User Rights in Maryland Reference Sheet” also available online as the Bridges Resource Library White Cane User Rights in Maryland Reference Sheet entry.

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!

Contact the Bridges Helpdesk for More Information

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.

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