It’s October 15th: White Cane Safety Day!

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Person walking around with white cane in hand

October 15th is White Cane Safety Day. A special day for America!

White canes (if you didn’t know) aid a person with a visual disability or blindness. They use the cane for independence in mobility and navigation. A white cane also makes people aware that the user has a visual impairment. White Cane Safety Day stands as a reminder that people who are blind and visually impaired are equal to those who have sight and have equal access to the road.

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed October 15th of each year as White Cane Safety Day. In like manner, each president since Johnson has recognized blind Americans on October 15th.

Wait. Are we talking about the same day?

So, is it White Cane Safety Day, White Cane Day, White Cane Awareness Day, or Blind Americans Equality Day? They are all the same day! The name has had a few evolutions because, in 1968, it wasn’t safe for people with visual disabilities to travel alone. Back then, we didn’t have talking crosswalks (APS), tactile pavement, or the same awareness about people with blindness. As awareness has improved, and some of the challenges overcome, the needs of people with blindness and visual impairments have changed, and so have elements of this day.

“In 1963, [when the National Federation of the Blind sought to have White Cane Safety Day proclaimed as a recognition of the rights of blind persons only] a comparatively small number of blind people had achieved sufficient independence to travel alone on the busy highways of our nation. In 1978, [10 years after White Cane Safety Day] that number has not simply increased but multiplied a hundredfold.” It’s not because people with blindness didn’t have the desire to travel alone, but because cars wouldn’t stop and travel wasn’t accessible. White Cane Safety Day set the precedent that Americans with sight and Americans with blindness have the same civil liberties and access to the roads.

a stoplight to signal right-of-way for white cane users

Access to Roads and Independent Travel

Today, driver manuals explicitly train drivers to come to a complete stop when a white cane or guide dog is present. Most of us can’t remember a day where we didn’t know to stop for white cane users.

In Section 6.1.3 of Florida’s Driver’s Handbook, we read: “The primary traveling aids for a person who is blind are often a white cane or a trained guide dog. Independent travel involves some risk that can be greatly reduced when you, the driver, are aware of the use and meaning of a white cane or guide dog. Drivers must always yield the right-of-way to persons who are blind. When a pedestrian is crossing a street or highway guided by a dog or carrying a white cane (or a white cane with a red tip), vehicles must come to a complete stop.”

A Day for White Canes and Equality

In 2011, President Barack Obama elevated White Cane Safety Day to Blind Americans Equality Day with a proclamation that states: “On Blind Americans Equality Day, we celebrate the achievements of blind and visually impaired Americans and reaffirm our commitment to advancing their complete social and economic integration.”

White Cane Safety Day became Blind Americans Equality Day because it’s equally important to spread awareness and educate the public. On October 15th, we change mindsets regarding individuals who are blind. Here at Braille Works, we advance that independence and equality. We supply government and business communities with accessible communications for their customers who are blind or visually impaired – Making the World a More Readable Place™.

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This post was written by Clerise Phillip Samuel

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