White Cane Day is an international awareness event to celebrate the importance of the long cane and to promote a safe environment for users. The day is celebrated on October 15. The traditional white cane, also known as Hoover' cane, after Dr Richard Hoover, is designed primarily as a mobility tool used to detect objects in the path of a user. The length of the cane depends upon the height of the user.
The mission of White Cane Day is to educate the world about blindness and how the blind and visually impaired can live and work independently while giving back to their communities, to celebrate the abilities and successes achieved by blind people in a sighted world and to honor the many contributions being made by the blind and visually impaired.
|blindfolded participants of the walk|
The cane is white in colour so that it can be easily spotted in the dark. The lower end of it is coated in red so as to warn motorists and others that they must be careful.
The National Association for the Blind, Goa State Branch,organised a walk for the blind on the occasion of World White Cane Day on Saturday, October 15, 2016.
The Walk started from the Ferry Boat Point and culminate at Kala Academy. It was attended by various schools, with a slogan writing competition held for them, as well as the rotary branch of Panjim participating with full support.
Blind people have used canes as a mobility tools since centuries, but it was not until after World War I that the white cane was introduced. In 1921 James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol, who became blind after an accident painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible to vehicular traffic.In 1931 in France, Guilly d'Herbemont launched a national white stick movement for blind people and in the USA, President Lyndon Johnson was the first to make this proclamation.
During the same year, Russell Williams, who was blinded by enemy action in France, received medical rehabilitation at the Valley Forge Army Hospital, and in 1947, C. Warren Bledsoe joined the Hospital. These three men made significant contributions to the development of a new profession: Orientation and Mobility.
The war-blinded soldiers were highly motivated to be successful, and Richard Hoover believed that the traditional strategies taught and used to travel independently were inadequate. In response, he developed a technique for using a cane that was lightweight and longer than a support cane. This technique and cane revolutionized independent travel for blind people and remain in use today.
It is interesting to note that the white cane was a by product of war. War blinded the soldiers, and thus motivated the movement for more independence for blind people all over the world. Blindness still remains a very real part of our wars. The pellet gun injuries in the recent Kashmir Valley is an example of the drastic effects of war.
Sometimes, no amount of surgery can help regain vision. Acceptance of this truth is the first step towards, accepting the white cane, as the symbol of a new life.
This life is not a life of pity and dependence on others. It is a symbol of the will power to survive, to become independent and to embrace what ever life has to offer.
Breaking the news that someone cannot see , ever again, is an earth shattering news. Some times children are born blind, without the formation of an eye, sometimes injuries in school lead to blindness, other times it is an accident at work, or a slowly progressing disease of the eye. No matter how the vision is lost, the white cane and other modalities of low vision therapy helps.
Acceptance is the toughest step. Most of our patients travel to every doctor, and to far flung hospitals in hope of a miracle. For a second,third or even a twelvth opinion. Yes, it is human nature to hope, but most of them refuse to accept the white cane, as they feel it os a sign of disability, a sign of giving up hope. They feel it is a sign of surrendering to their blind fate, but in actuality it is the first step towards moving out of the disability. It is a step forward, not a step backward.
As a doctor I can explain only so much. The next move has to be by society , by the public. Help your child, help your colleague, help your neighbour, in embracing freedom, embracing independence, embracing the white cane.
Don’t struggle against the darkness.
It is not just the white cane, but the blind refuse to learn braille, parents refuse to send their children to schools, in the fear that their child will be ostracised by society. For a parent to accept their blind child, the society must change.
With the growing use of the white cane,there is an added element-the wish and the will to be free'-the unquenchable spirit and the inextinguishable determination to be independent. With these, lives are changed, and the prospects for blind people become bright. That is what White Cane Day is all about.
It is not just a day for the blind and the people with low vision. It is a day for everyone, because until society changes, until there is more awareness and acceptance of people, we cannot truly move towards light and away from the darkness.