October 15 is White Cane Safety Day – it is a national observance in the United States to celebrate the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired and the important symbol of blindness and tool of independence, the white cane.
In February of 1978 a young blind lady said, “I encounter people all of the time who bless me, extol my independence, call me brave and courageous, and thoroughly miss the boat as to what the real significance of the white cane is.”…
The white cane in our society has become one of the symbols of a blind person’s ability to come and go on his own. Its use has promoted courtesy and special consideration to the blind on our streets and highways. To make our people more fully aware of the meaning of the white cane and of the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind persons who carry it Congress, by a joint resolution approved as of October 6, 1964, has authorized the President to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day…
From 1963 (and even before) when the National Federation of the Blind sought to have White Cane Safety Day proclaimed as a recognition of the rights of blind persons, to 1978 when a blind pedestrian met with misunderstanding regarding the true meaning of the white cane, is but a short time in the life of a movement. In 1963, a comparatively small number of blind people had achieved sufficient independence to travel alone on the busy highways of our nation. In 1978 that number has not simply increased but multiplied a hundredfold. The process began in the beginning of the organized blind movement and continues today. There was a time when it was unusual to see a blind person on the street, to find a blind person working in an office, or to see a blind person operating machinery in a factory. This is still all too uncommon. But it happens more often and the symbol of this independence is the white cane. The blind are able to go, to move, to be, and to compete with all others in society. The means by which this is done is that simple tool, the white cane. With the growing use of the white cane is an added element – the wish and the will to be free – the unquenchable spirit and the inextinguishable determination to be independent. With these our lives are changed, and the prospects for blind people become bright. That is what White Cane Safety Day is all about. That is what we do in the National Federation of the Blind. – Marc Maurer, National Federation of the Blind
For someone with a brother who is visually impaired, I can attest to the courage required to meet the challenges of everyday life. Humans are hardwired with a dread of the dark. That is where the fear, the uncertainty, and the possibility of all our collective nightmares live. The blind and visually impaired find themselves trapped in this realm that we are only one dawn or light switch away from banishing.
For them, those fears are a palpable reality. To live their lives in a productive and fulfilling manner they get up EVERY DAY and step into that darkness. With every step, they declare their unwillingness to be beaten. They show us all that courage comes not from being unafraid. It comes from knowing that fear and striving on in the face of that fear.
God bless you all. I am proud of you.
And remember, October is Meet The Blind Month.
If you want information on how you can learn more about sight issues or to donate, please check out some of these sites:
- National Federation of the Blind
- Lions Club International
- National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH)