White Cane Safety Day Recognizes Visually Impaired Independence

People with vision loss often use a mobility aid called the white cane. The white cane helps the blind independently travel to work, go to appointments and participate in recreational activities like those offered by Outlook Enrichment. Cane users can easily find stairs, curbs, doorways, and obstacles. The cane gives the blind confidence to navigate around any area.

The white cane became a useful mobility tool in World War I, when blinded veterans came home from battle. Army Sergeant Richard Hoover, was assigned to the Center for the Treatment of Blinded Soldiers at Valley Forge Army Hospital, and observed that the existing travel techniques for the blind were inadequate. He developed a light-weight, long cane for travel and mobility, which evolved into the cane used today.

The white cane identifies the user as visually impaired. Cane users hold the device in front of their bodies for visibility and effective technique. This is especially critical when approaching a street intersection. Motorists easily see the white cane because of its color, and the red strips help deflect a vehicle’s headlights.

What is White Cane Safety Day?

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the first national White Cane Day into law. Every year on October 15th it is known as National White Cane Safety Day and to acknowledge the achievements of the blind and visually impaired. Additionally, the law confirmed the white cane as a symbol of blindness and tool of independence. In 2011, President Barack Obama added the name Blind Americans Equality Day. The mission is to celebrate the continuing achievements of blind and visually impaired Americans and reaffirm the commitment to advancing their complete social and economic integration. Nebraska implemented similar legislation for those pedestrians that use a white cane. Each year the governor issues a proclamation to note the significance of the white cane, remind everyone of the law, and highlight awareness of the presence of blind and visually impaired people in the community.

Here is a short summary of the law:

  1. Only people who are blind or visually impaired should travel with a white cane.

  2. When a motorist comes in contact with a person traveling with a white cane at an intersection the  driver should proceed with caution and come to an immediate stop to avoid injury or harm to the white cane traveler.

  3. Any person who is in violation of the above will be  guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to penalty under the law.

Motorist must know and obey the rules of the road, including posted speeds. For those of you who drive, please be courteous and cautious driver. Please remember to observe the White Cane Law so that everyone can travel safely. Proceed cautiously if a pedestrian is using a white cane.

Support independence for people with vision loss with a gift of time, talent or treasure to Outlook Enrichment’s programs on White Cane Safety Day and during Meet the Blind Month in October. Your gifts help people with vision loss live independently through technology training, cultural, and recreation programs. 

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