Public invited to White Cane Safety Awareness walk

The public is invited to the White Cane Safety Awareness Day Walk, Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kukui Grove Center.

Coinciding with the monthly meeting of the National Federation of the Blind, Kaua‘i Chapter, the White Cane Safety Awareness Day Walk offers citizens interested in promoting pedestrian safety a greater awareness of the white cane and its significance of freedom, independence and empowerment for persons who are blind and visually impaired.

To make the American people more fully aware of the meaning of the white cane and of the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind person who carries it, the United States Congress, on Oct. 6, 1964, approved a resolution authorizing the President of the United States to annually issue a proclamation designating Oct. 15 as National White Cane Safety Day, states the Lions Club website.

Throughout history, the cane, staff and stick has existed as traveling aids for the blind and visually impaired, states Philip Strong, an advocate at the American Council for the Blind office for pedestrian safety.

Dating back to biblical times, records indicate a shepherd’s staff was utilized as a tool for visually impaired people traveling by themselves, using the tool to alert them to obstacles in their path.

For centuries, the ‘cane’ was used merely as a tool for travel and it was not until the 20th Century that the cane was promoted for use by the blind as a symbol to alert others to the fact that an individual was blind, Strong states.

In 1921, James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol, England, became blind following an accident and painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible in the traffic around his home, states the Lions Club website.

In 1930, the late George Bonham, president of the Peoria Lions Club in Illinois introduced the idea of using the white cane with a red band as a means of assisting the blind in independent mobility.

Canes were made and distributed and news spread to other Lions clubs throughout the nation, meeting overwhelming acceptance by the blind and sighted alike.

In 1931, Guilly d’Herbemont recognized the danger to blind people in traffic and launched a national “white stick movement” for blind people in France, donating 5,000 white canes to people in Paris.

Stan Young will also be available to demonstrate the KNFB Reader Mobile at the event sponsored by the KNFB and the Department of Human Services Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind.

For more information about program services for persons who are blind and visually impaired, or the White Cane Safety Awareness Day Walk, call 274-3333.

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