White Cane Safety Day Observations

Empish standing at a street corner, white cane in hand

White Cane Day Musings

Several peer advisors share their thoughts and experiences about this very important day.

From Empish Thomas:

Editor’s note: This blog was published originally on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 on the Center for the Visually Impaired Blog by Empish Thomas. It was edited for use on VisionAware and is reprinted here by permission.

My Use of the White Cane

As a blind person I use a mobility aid called the white cane. Over the years I have found this device to not only be beneficial but essential to my mobility and travel. Each day before I leave the house I grab my house keys and my white cane, which I always have propped up on the wall by the front door. My white cane has enabled me to travel safely and confidently by detecting stairs, sidewalk curbs, doorways and obstacles along the way. It gives me the added security and protection I need so that I don’t stumble, fall or run into things. My white cane also identifies me as being a person with a vision impairment. When people see my white cane they have a better understanding of my situation and are more willing to help.

When I first started using my white cane I learned how to cross busy streets and intersections by getting training from an orientation and mobility specialist. I learned how important it was to have my white cane directly in front of my body so that motorist could see it clearly. To a motorist driving down the street or hovering at a street light; the white cane stands out because of its color and the red strips help deflect a vehicle’s headlights. Through my years of travel, I have learned how important it is to know and be aware of the laws that protect white cane travelers.

History of the White Cane

Since World War I, when blinded veterans came home from battle, the white cane has been a useful tool. Richard Hoover, an army sergeant, who was assigned to the Center for the Treatment of Blinded Soldiers at Valley Forge Army Hospital, observed that the existing travel techniques for the blind were inadequate. He developed a better technique that included using a light weight long cane for travel and mobility; evolving into the white cane that we use today.

History of White Cane Day

The first National White Cane Day was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. It designated October 15th as National White Cane Safety Day. Georgia (my home state) like other states, created a state law and protection for those pedestrians that use a white cane.

Georgia White Cane Law as an Example:

  1. All states have a law but they vary from state to state. In Georgia, 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 that driver should 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.

What Motorists Need to Know

It is important that motorist know and obey the rules of the road, including posted speeds. For those of you who drive, please be a courteous and cautious driver. Please remember to observe your state’s White Cane Law so that we all can travel safely to our destinations. If you see the cane, stop the car.

Additional Resources:

From Lynne Tatum

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Matilda Ziegler newsletter on August 19, 2013.

Lynne: Perhaps some readers will find this article somewhat comforting and comical.

I’ve used a white mobility cane for over twenty years and I can’t thank my friends enough for advising me to begin doing so as a device for identification and safety. It’s been a lifesaver on many occasions and I never leave home without it.

Much like guide dog users, we cane users have our preferences. Back in the day, my cane was at the recommended height, somewhere near my sternum, with a small tip. For years, though, I’ve used a cane that reaches just under my nose and I feel more secure walking in the city with it as it indisputably parts the pedestrians on our crowded streets of New York City. I once met a woman shorter than I who used a cane that was taller than she. I thought that a bit odd but who am I to judge?

You might find it amusing that I sometimes talk to my cane as if it’s human, thanking it for doing a good job of getting me safely around an obstacle or scolding it after I’ve whacked my noggin into an object that it smoothly slid right under. These scenarios are more likely to happen in New York City as the city has more construction going on than ever. Currently, I use a cane with a rather large ball on the end, finding it extremely useful here in the city for identifying the multitude of dangerous cracks and uneven parts of our sidewalks. The ball also adds extra weight to the cane, which I like, but others might find too heavy to swing. An amusing aspect of this cane is the fact that it attracts small children and dogs. They all want to play, and parents and owners must call them back from trying to chase it!

Last summer I apparently used my cane as a climbing tool. Thinking I’d reached our favorite fried chicken establishment, I began walking my cane up a fence. A kind gentlemen came along to rescue me, propelling me towards the store entrance. That is what I get for allowing my talking to distract me.

To date, I’ve had only one dangerous experience while using my cane. As I crossed a small familiar street, a young man came upon me; pushed me to the ground; grabbed my cane and went who knew where with it. Thoroughly shaken, I struggled up; dusted myself off and wondered what I’d do next. I didn’t have to wait long as a woman arrived,handed my cane to me and assured me that I could go on my way. She had witnessed the incident and gathered people to help collect it. She even hailed a cab for me. An Urban Angel, I’ll never forget her.

Recommended by Deanna Noriega

Deanna shared a post,“Unfolded” by D.P. Lyons with an excerpt and link to the rest.

“I opened up my cane the other day, and as usual, it was ready and raring to assist me. It didn’t ask why, it didn’t ask when, it didn’t complain or criticize or make fun or complicate things. It just calmly and collectively unfolded and started helping me along my way…”