Saturday, October 15, 2016

Guest Post: White Cane Safety Day October 15

 Ernie Jones, a registered nurse who retired due to vision loss is a columnist for the Walla wall Union Bulletin

This post is a reprint of his September 2016 column.

October 15 national cane day

Tap, Tap, Tap, That is the sound of independence. That’s the sound of people with visual impairments, using a white cane to confidently navigate to work, to school, or maybe out for a daily walk.

I thought everyone knew what the white canes were used for, but was surprised to learn not everyone understands what the white cane is for. One day, a friend and I, both swinging our long white canes, were enjoying a walk, when a lady stopped us and asked, “What are those sticks for?”

I have to admit, I was so surprised I almost laughed, but I only said, “These are white canes we blind use to walk around. They help us avoid stumbling into objects or other things that may be in our way.”

“You are both blind? You are walking rather fast and I never thought of you as being blind. Thank you for explaining.”

One more person learning about the white cane.

 October 15 is national White Cane Safety Day, acknowledging the independence and skill of people with  visual impairments who use a white cane to navigate. There’s no better day to celebrate the power of the white cane than October 15, the day set aside by the federal government to recognize the independence and skill of people who use white canes.

Laws in all 50 states require drivers to yield the right of way to people with white canes, even when they’re not on a crosswalk.

In honor of White Cane Safety Day, here are some facts about the white cane.

1.       It’s legal to take a white cane through an airport security check-point, according to the TSA, but it must pass through the X-ray machine first.

2.       In 1930, George A Bonham, president  of the Peoria,  Illinois
Lions Club, watched  a man who was blind as he tried to cross a street. The man’s cane was black and motorists couldn’t see it, so Bonham proposed painting the cane white with a red stripe to make it more noticeable. The idea quickly caught on around the country.

3.       White canes are going high-tech. Inventors in  India, Great Britain and France have equipped white canes with ultrasonic devices that detect obstacles up to nine feet away. Vibrations in the cane’s handle warn users of potential hazards in their path.

4.       The standard for using a white cane was pioneered in 1944 by Richard E. Hoover, a World War II veteran rehabilitation specialist. His technique of holding a long cane in the center of the body and swinging it back and forth before each step to detect obstacles is still called the “Hoover Method.”

5.      The majority of blind people don’t use a white cane. In fact, only an estimated 2 to 8 percent  of blind use a cane - the rest rely on their useable vision, a guide dog or a sighted guide.

6.      6.  There are different kinds of white canes. 1. The standardmobility cane, used to navigate. 2, The support cane, used by people with visual impairments who also have mobility challenges. 3 The ID cane, a small, foldable cane used by people with partial sight to let others know they have a visual impairment.
7.       Unless you’re willing to “walk the walk,” you can’t become a certified Orientation & Mobility specialist. O&M specialists teach white cane technique to the people who are blind or have limited eyesight. But to  become certified, they must spend at least 120 hours blindfolded navigating with a white cane.

8.       Today’s modern light weight canes are usually made from aluminum, fiberglass or carbon fiber, and can weigh as little as seven ounces. Some white cane users prefer straight canes, which are more durable, while others prefer collapsible canes, which can be folded and stored more easily.

9.      White caning can be fun. The Braille Institute sponsors an annual cane quest, where youngsters aged 3-12 compete to quickly and safely navigate a route in their community using  the white cane. The contest helps kids master proper white cane techniques and encourages independence.

10.      In some states, it’s illegal for a person who is not legally blind to use a white cane to gain right-of-way while crossing a street. Get caught in Florida, for example, and you’ll face second-degree misdemeanor charges and up to 60 days in prison.

I hope these facts help you realize, many blind go to work daily, while others are mastering college. Sometimes it is just fun to go for a walk. There are quite a few right in our area who use the white cane. They may not be walking exactly where most pedestrians walk, but remember, these too enjoy life.

Have a great day and remember White Cane Day October 15.

Ernie Jones
Author of Onesimus the Run /away Slave
Encouraging The blind
Greater love hath no man then this


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