Study looks at design of canes used by blind

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The long can was developed during the 1940's and has changed little since then.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Three Western Michigan University professors are helping to study whether white canes used by blind and visually impaired people might benefit from a redesign.

Dae Shik Kim, Robert Wall Emerson and Koorosh Naghshineh will study how to improve the ergonomic design and cane-use biomechanics to help cane users better detect obstacles and drop-offs while walking, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported.

“The vast majority use the long cane to get around,” Kim said. “So by redesigning and improving its design, and also improving how the cane is used, we hope to improve the safety of blind individuals, which will obviously improve their quality of life.”

Research is being funded by a more than $421,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Kim, the project’s principal investigator and an associate professor of blindness and low vision studies, said the long cane was developed during the 1940s and has changed little since then.

He said the three-year project also will examine how to effectively wield a cane to detect obstacles.

“The current long cane design and cane-use biomechanics do not seem to be adequate to provide reliable protection from such hazards,” Kim said.

Emerson is a professor of blindness and low vision studies and Naghshineh is a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

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