I was inspired to write this post by an article in Consumer Vision, an online publication designed by and for blind and visually impaired people. On July 6th, 1963, the National Federation of the Blind called on all state governors to proclaim October 15th as White Cane Safety Day. On October 6th, 1964, a Congress joint resolution was signed, authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15th as White Cane Safety Day. Within hours after this legislation was passed, Linden B. Johnson was the first United States President to recognize the white cane as a symbol of independence for blind and visually impaired people. Click here to learn more about White Cane Safety Day.
Now, all states have laws requiring drivers to stop so pedestrians with white canes can cross streets safely. However, these laws are hard to enforce. Years ago when a police officer visited a support group for the visually impaired I once facilitated, he said that if we got offending drivers’ license plates, they could be ticketed. My nose needs to be against the car’s bumper in order to read the license plate. If the car’s moving, forget it.
A year or so later while walking home, I was approached by a policeman on a bicycle who asked me if drivers were stopping to let me cross streets with my white cane. When I told him what the other officer said, he responded that he would bring it up at roll call. This inspired my romance novel, We Shall Overcome, but I digress.
The next time you’re driving down the street, and you see someone with a white cane attempting to cross, please stop, even if you’re already late for work. Remember that some of us with white canes don’t see oncoming traffic. Also, please share this with other drivers, using one or more of the options below. Let’s make our streets safe for people who are blind or visually impaired.
October 15th is also National Poetry Day so here’s a poem I wrote several years ago about my white cane. It appears in my collection, That’s Life. Click on the title to hear me read it.
When not in use,
it’s folded, tucked under my arm
or stuffed in a back pack.
When I step outside,
I pull free the nylon holding it together.
It unfolds, clicks into place.
I walk away, ready to face adversity.