White Cane Safety Awareness Day is October 15th! In 1964, Congress designated October 15th of each year as White Cane Safety Day. This is the first time that it was widely recognized that people who are blind or low vision could travel safely and independently. World Blind Union, a global organization representing the nearly 300 million blind or partially sighted people in the world says, “White Cane Day is observed worldwide to recognize the movement of blind people from dependency to full participation in society.”
In Oklahoma, Governor Stitt issued an official state proclamation recognizing the event. Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired will host a celebration in Oklahoma City from 11 am to 12 pm at the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library. In Tulsa, Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired will host a celebration at OSU-Tulsa campus from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Both groups will complete a walk in honor of white cane safety. For more information on the events, addresses, and specific locations, check out the official news page from Oklahoma.gov. Everyone is encouraged to participate and ask questions, not just those who use a cane to navigate!
Tracy Brigham, Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired Administrator, said the goal for the walk is to “emphasize safety and educate about blindness and low vision,” and to “celebrate the progress and achievements made by Oklahomans who are blind and visually impaired.”
A white cane is a tool that gives individuals who are blind or low vision the ability to achieve an empowered and independent life. It gives them the confidence to navigate freely and safely in almost any space. That includes sidewalks, hallways, stores, and even stairs.
As always, if you are approaching someone who is blind or low vision, say hi! Don’t touch them without permission, don’t silently move into a corner, and don’t direct them unless they ask. People who are blind and low vision rely on their hearing and touch to navigate, so just by saying “hello,” they’re able to gauge where you are in the room and navigate accordingly.
If you are driving or riding a bike and you see someone using a white cane, you must follow the law and stop to give them the right of way. In Oklahoma, drivers are required to come to a complete stop 15 feet away from pedestrians who are blind or low vision and identified by their use of a white cane with a red tip or a guide dog.
If you see someone with a guide dog, do not interact with their dog. The dog is working and distracting or interfering with it can be very dangerous to the handler, who relies on the dog to keep them safe. Guide dogs, along with other service animals, are legally allowed to be in all public spaces including restaurants, grocery stores, doctor’s offices, and airports.
Only people who are blind or low vision are permitted to use white canes with or without red tips. These canes are internationally recognized as mobility aids for people with disabilities.
For more information about SBVI’s White Cane Safety Awareness Day in OKC, contact Elizabeth Scheffe at 405-522-3359 or [email protected].
For the Tulsa event, contact Jane Lansaw at 918-313-1572 or [email protected].