White Cane Safety Day is observed annually on October 15. It’s a day dedicated to visually impaired people. The white cane represents their remarkable achievements and symbolizes their independence.
History of White Cane Safety Day
Traveling aids for the blind like canes, staff, and sticks have been around for a long time, but it was only in the 20th century that white canes came into existence and became a symbol used by the blind to alert others.
It is said that James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol, was the one who came up with the concept of white canes. In 1921, Biggs met with an accident, which resulted in blindness. The number of vehicles on the roads was rising during that period, so Biggs decided to paint his cane white in order to be easily visible to motorists, as well as other pedestrians.
In France, musician and writer Guilly d’Herbemont launched a scheme for the blind named the National White Stick Movement. She handed over white canes to many blind people throughout France, including WWI veterans. This was well-received in the United Kingdom as well. The United Kingdom proposed that blind people be given white canes and that it be universally recognized as an indicator that the person carrying it was blind.
In the United States, it was the Lions Clubs International that suggested the idea of giving white canes to the blind. For the war veterans, the long white canes not only acted as an identifier but also as a tool used for mobility.
On October 6, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson and the U.S. Congress signed a joint resolution and proclaimed that October 15 be celebrated as White Cane Safety Day every year.
White Cane Safety Day timeline
James Biggs, a blind man from Bristol, paints his cane white so that he is more noticeable to motorists.
Guilly d'Herbemont from France gifts white canes to the visually impaired.
Richard E. Hoover at Valley Forge Army Hospital develops and teaches the ‘Hoover Method’ or the ‘Long Cane’ method to many blind citizens.
President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaims October 15 to be observed as White Cane Safety Day.
White Cane Safety Day FAQs
What does it mean when a white cane has a red tip?
If you see a person carrying a white cane that has a red tip it means that the person is deafblind — both deaf and blind. A completely white cane means visual impairment only.
Can white canes be taken on an airplane?
Yes. It is legal to carry a white cane on an airplane but only after it has been screened by the X-ray machine.
What are white canes made of?
To make the white canes lightweight and durable, materials like aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber are used to manufacture them.
How to Observe White Cane Safety Day
Distribute white canes
What better way to celebrate this day than by giving out white canes to people who need them. There are still many visually impaired people who do not possess a white cane. Get some white canes and distribute them among those in need.
Educate people about white cane laws
Many people are not aware of white cane laws such as a blind individual with a white cane has the right of way. This includes both people who are blind and people who are sighted. Make use of this day to spread awareness about white cane laws. You can either conduct seminars in your neighborhood or do it online.
Do something special for the blind
This would be the perfect opportunity to remind those who suffer from loss of sight that they are so much more than their impairment. If you have a blind person in your community or circle, show them some love by doing something that will have an impact on their lives. Tell them about career opportunities, laws that they are unaware of, or help them learn braille if they haven't already.
5 Facts About White Cane Laws
They have the right of way
A blind pedestrian with a white cane or a guide dog has the right of way.
Do not honk your horn
You should not honk your horn at a blind person as they wouldn't have any idea where the sound is coming from and may become startled by the noise.
Stop your vehicle 10 feet away
You must stop your vehicle before approaching closer than 10 feet to a pedestrian with a white cane or a mobility device.
Everyone cannot carry a white cane
Carrying a white cane unless you are partially or fully blind is a punishable offense.
There are three types of white canes
There is the standard cane for navigation, the support cane for mobility, and the I.D. cane for people with partial sight.
Why White Cane Safety Day is Important
There are millions of visually impaired people
It is estimated that over 250 million people worldwide are visually impaired. White Cane Safety Day is a day to appreciate the achievements of blind people.
It is a reminder to help those who are visually impaired
This day gives an opportunity to reach out to the people that might need your help. You can attend meetings and events organized on White Cane Safety Day and do something that will help visually impaired people
It is a day to celebrate the symbol of independence
White canes are the symbol of independence for the visually impaired. This day calls for learning and educating people about the importance of this tool, and celebrating this symbol of independence.
White Cane Safety Day dates