International White Cane Day – 15th October
A white cane is used by many people who are blind. It helps as a mobility tool and comes in different varieties such as a long cane, foldable cane. 75% of the cane is painted with white and 25% is painted with Red colour.
15th October is marked as White Cane Safety Day. This observation has started in the year 1963 by the United States of America and then recognized in several countries. Objective of this day is to raise awareness on mobility and independent living of people with blindness.
History of White Cane
Blind people have used canes as mobility tools for centuries, but it was not until after World War I that the white cane was introduced.
In 1921 James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol who became blind after an accident and was uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home, painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible.
In 1931 in France, Guilly d’Herbemont launched a national white stick movement for blind people. On February 7, 1931, Guilly d’Herbemont symbolically gave the first two white canes to blind people, in the presence of several French ministers. 5,000 more white canes were later sent to blind French veterans from World War I and blind civilians.
In the United States, the introduction of the white cane is attributed to George A. Bonham of the Lions Clubs International. In 1930, a Lions Club member watched as a man who was blind attempted to cross the street with a black cane that was barely visible to motorists against the dark pavement. The Lions decided to paint the cane white to make it more visible. In 1931, Lions Clubs International began a program promoting the use of white canes for people who are blind.
The first special white cane ordinance was passed in December 1930 in Peoria, Illinois granting blind pedestrians protections and the right-of-way while carrying a white cane.
The long cane was improved upon by World War II veterans rehabilitation specialist, Richard E. Hoover, at Valley Forge Army Hospital. In 1944, he took the Lions Club white cane (originally made of wood) and went around the hospital blindfolded for a week. During this time he developed what is now the standard method of “long cane” training or the Hoover Method. He is now called the “Father of the Lightweight Long Cane Technique.” The basic technique is to swing the cane from the center of the body back and forth before the feet. The cane should be swept before the rear foot as the person steps. Before he taught other rehabilitators, or “orientors,” his new technique he had a special commission to have light weight, long white canes made for the veterans of the European fronts.
On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution of the Congress, HR 753, was signed into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as “White Cane Safety Day”. President Lyndon Johnson was the first to make this proclamation.
Source: History of White Cane on Wikipedia
If you see a person with blindness, though your intention is to help them, it’s not a good practice to grab their hand and take along. It’s important you approach, ask and then assist. There was an incident where a blind man was waiting on a roadside having his white cane, suddenly someone took his hand and made him cross the road without asking or listening to him. After crossing the road, stranger asked him where he would want to go and reply was “I was waiting for a friend and didn’t want to cross the road” 🙂
Resource: Tips to assist people who are blind and visually impaired from Vision Australia