CELEBRATE WHITE CANE SAFETY WITH CINCINNATIANS WHO ARE BLIND
You see us on the streets, carrying long white canes, coming and going where any person with sight might come or go. You see us in offices and shopping malls, amusement parks and hospitals, on college campuses and soccer fields. You see the white canes we carry and dog guides at our sides and maybe you wonder “How does that work?”
The white cane is the simplest, most powerful tool employed by blind people everywhere. With it, a person with no sight or limited sight can walk confidently anywhere a person with benefit of sight might go. It is not magic. It is not a symbol of second sight or mystical powers. With a white cane and the proper training to use it, a blind person can “see” his or her immediate surroundings, make mental maps through exploration, travel safely, and have an equal shot at claiming the American dream.
In 1963, it was not so common to see a blind person walking alone. That year, the National Federation of the Blind, an organization of blind men and women throughout America, passed a resolution calling upon the governors of all fifty states to proclaim October 15 as White Cane Safety Day.
As a result, President Lyndon B. Johnson, on October 6, 1964, signed into law the joint resolution of Congress directing the president to proclaim October 15 every year as White Cane Safety Day in America.
In 1966, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, a renowned constitutional lawyer and founder of the National Federation of the Blind, drafted the first White Cane law. That law came to be known as the Civil Rights bill of the blind and some form of it is now in effect in every one of the fifty states.
In 2013, it is difficult to imagine that blind people, just fifty years ago, were sometimes denied access to public accommodations, housing, or employment, but they were. Law and attitude have traveled far since 1963. Today, a blind person with a white cane or dog guide is rarely denied access to a public business, conveyance, or recreational facility, but there are still serious challenges.
Quiet cars and complex intersections make traveling independently more challenging today than it once was. There are more cars and more multi-tasking drivers. There are also more blind people and more white canes – and that means a greater need for awareness of blind pedestrians, and their right to travel independently and safely.
October 15 has been proclaimed White Cane Safety Day every year by every president since 1964. In Cincinnati, we celebrate it once again with a walk from City Hall to fountain Square, blind and sighted walking together.
Join us at City Hall by 10:45 October 15 to walk with us or just meet us at fountain Square from 11:30 to 2:00 for conversation. The National Federation of the Blind and Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired will be on hand to tell you more about blindness and the white cane. Canes and blindfolds will be available if you want to test drive the white cane experience for yourself.
The white cane is not magic. It is the tool that launches freedom and equality for every blind person. Ask us your questions (because we love talking about our white canes) and join us October 15.