Sightseeing. A periodic tour of CVI news, views and events.

Observing White Cane Safety Day

Photo of Empish with white cane

Empish Thomas uses her white cane to cross busy streets.

As a blind person I use a mobility aid called the white cane. Over the years I have found this device to not only be beneficial, but also essential to my mobility and travel. Each day before I leave the house I grab my house keys and my white cane, which I always have propped up on the wall by the front door. My white cane has enabled me to travel safely and confidently by detecting stairs, sidewalk curbs, doorways and obstacles along the way. It gives me the added security and protection I need so that I don’t stumble, fall or run into things. My white cane also identifies me as being a person with a vision impairment. When people see my white cane they have a better understanding of my situation and are more willing to help.

Since World War I, when blinded veterans came home from battle, the white cane has been a useful tool. Richard Hoover, an army sergeant, who was assigned to the Center for the Treatment of Blinded Soldiers at Valley Forge Army Hospital, observed that the existing travel techniques for the blind were inadequate. He developed a better technique that included using a light weight long cane for travel and mobility which has evolved into the white cane that we use today.

When I first started using my white cane, I learned how to cross busy streets and intersections. I learned how important it was to have my white cane directly in front of my body so that motorist could see it clearly. To a motorist driving down the street or hovering at a street light, the white cane stands out because of its color and the red strips help deflect a vehicle’s headlights. Through my years of travel, I have learned how important it is to know and be aware of the laws that protect white cane travelers.

The first national White Cane Day was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. It designated October 15th as National White Cane Safety Day. Georgia went a step further and created a state law and protection for those pedestrians that use a white cane.

Here is a summary of the law:

  1. Only people who are blind or visually impaired should travel with a white cane.
  2. When a motorist comes in contact with a person traveling with a white cane at an intersection that driver should come to an immediate stop to avoid injury or harm to the white cane traveler.
  3. Any person who is in violation of the above will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

It is important that motorists know and obey the rules of the road, including posted speeds. For those of you who drive, please be a courteous and cautious driver. Please remember to observe the White Cane Law so that we all can travel safely to our destinations. If you see the cane, stop the car.

Additional resources:

White Cane Safety Day

History of Orientation and Mobility


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