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white cane day

White Cane enables people with vision impairment to walk independently, but what causes problem?

15th October is celebrated as International White Cane Safety Awareness Day. White Cane enable users with vision impairment to walk independently. It offers indication if there are any obstacles in front of them. There ae traditional white canes which comes in variety of models such as long cane, folding cane, cane that comes with a ball that rolls. It comes in various sizes too. Today, there are also smart canes that not only detects objects on the floor but also detects and alert if there are objects at face level.

While these assistive aids are available, in many countries, it’s still difficult for people with vision impairment to move around independently. Why is that? Because it’s due to lack of accessible infrastructure. In some countries, foot paths doesn’t exist; even when they exist, we will see uneven path ways, someone selling goods etc., At the traffic signals, some people doesn’t follow rules. In urban areas, due to increased traffic, at many places, it’s difficult to cross roads and we don’t see footever bridges.

It’s not about accessibility of public places but even offices, residential buildings, all of these need to be accessible. In the modern apartments, we see elevators that has floor buttons in a touch panel without any alternate method. Accessibility needs to be considered for everything including entertainment.

On this day, let’s all write to various stakeholders and raise awareness about importance of having right infrastructure and how it can create positive impact on people.

October 15: White Cane Awareness Day – Event at NAB Karnataka

International White Cane Awareness Day was observed at The National Association for the Blind, Karnataka Branch. The event was started with an invocation song by inmates of orgaanization. 

It was followed by talks by four of the inmates who have just completed Mobility Training at The NAB Karnataka. They have explained their experience using white cane and how they are able to move with more independence. All of them have mentioned white cane remains important tool along with other aids and appliances. 

Then Ajeesh, Ram and Raghu of IBM Accessibility Team have shared their experiences as to how mobility plays a key role in work environment. They urged inmates to gain self-confidence and build aptitude to acceptany challenge. 

They have also talked about key skills that one needs to build a successful career. I have got an opportunity to address the gathering during which I have acknowledged efforts put in by Raghu’s mother who have made sure Raghu lives with independence. She takes him to all pilgrim places and explain everything in detail. We really need such motivational parents. 

Then inmates who have completed their mobility training were awarded with a certificate and a white cane. 

Event was concluded with National anthem. 

International White Cane Day – 15th October

A white cane is used by many people who are blind. It helps as a mobility tool and comes in different varieties such as a long cane, foldable cane. 75% of the cane is painted with white and 25% is painted with Red colour.

15th October is marked as White Cane Safety Day. This observation has started in the year 1963 by the United States of America and then recognized in several countries. Objective of this day is to raise awareness on mobility and independent living of people with blindness.

History of White Cane

Blind people have used canes as mobility tools for centuries,[3] but it was not until after World War I that the white cane was introduced.

In 1921 James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol who became blind after an accident and was uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home, painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible.[citation needed]

In 1931 in France, Guilly d’Herbemont launched a national white stick movement for blind people. On February 7, 1931, Guilly d’Herbemont symbolically gave the first two white canes to blind people, in the presence of several French ministers. 5,000 more white canes were later sent to blind French veterans from World War I and blind civilians.[4]

In the United States, the introduction of the white cane is attributed to George A. Bonham of the Lions Clubs International.[5] In 1930, a Lions Club member watched as a man who was blind attempted to cross the street with a black cane that was barely visible to motorists against the dark pavement. The Lions decided to paint the cane white to make it more visible. In 1931, Lions Clubs International began a program promoting the use of white canes for people who are blind.

The first special white cane ordinance was passed in December 1930 in Peoria, Illinois granting blind pedestrians protections and the right-of-way while carrying a white cane.[citation needed]

The long cane was improved upon by World War II veterans rehabilitation specialist, Richard E. Hoover, at Valley Forge Army Hospital.[6] In 1944, he took the Lions Club white cane (originally made of wood) and went around the hospital blindfolded for a week. During this time he developed what is now the standard method of “long cane” training or the Hoover Method. He is now called the “Father of the Lightweight Long Cane Technique.” The basic technique is to swing the cane from the center of the body back and forth before the feet. The cane should be swept before the rear foot as the person steps. Before he taught other rehabilitators, or “orientors,” his new technique he had a special commission to have light weight, long white canes made for the veterans of the European fronts.[7]

On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution of the Congress, HR 753, was signed into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as “White Cane Safety Day”. President Lyndon Johnson was the first to make this proclamation.
Source: History of White Cane on Wikipedia

If you see a person with blindness, though your intention is to help them, it’s not a good practice to grab their hand and take along. It’s important you approach, ask and then assist. There was an incident where a blind man was waiting on a roadside having his white cane, suddenly someone took his hand and made him cross the road without asking or listening to him. After crossing the road, stranger asked him where he would want to go and reply was “I was waiting for a friend and didn’t want to cross the road” 🙂
Resource: Tips to assist people who are blind and visually impaired from Vision Australia

Cheers,
Srinivasu