Many came together on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, in Talladega, AL, to celebrate White Cane Safety Awareness Day. This day draws attention to the success and accomplishments of individuals who are blind and visually impaired and has been celebrated since 1964. The white cane is a symbol and tool of independence.
Opening ceremonies for the day’s events began at the Talladega Chamber of Commerce where the crowd was welcomed by Lenore Dillon of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS). After a prayer, the crowd was led in the Pledge of Allegiance by Boy Scout Troop 4025 of Alabama School for the Blind (ASB), who presented the flags. The pledge was followed by the singing of the National Anthem, led by the ASB Ensemble, directed by Chad Bell.
Caitlin Simpson of ADRS presented the history of Orientation & Mobility and Talladega Lions Club President David Trott presented the history of White Cane Day. Speakers included AIDB President Dr. John Mascia and ADRS Director of Special Programs Ashley Townsend. After a song from an ASB Ensemble soloist, Mayor Larry Barton presented the proclamation. The walk began immediately following the proclamation.
The walk ended at the Talladega Family Life Center where participants enjoyed hands-on activities and exhibitors, entertainment by Julie Watt & The No See Ums, lunch, door prizes and more.
The story of the white cane began in 1921 when a photographer from England became blind following an accident. Because he was feeling uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home, he painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible.
In 1930, the president of the Peoria, Illinois Lions Club introduced the idea of using the white cane with a red band as a means of assisting the blind in independent mobility. The Peoria Lions began making and distributing the cane and the Peoria City Council adopted an ordinance giving the bearers the right-of-way to cross the street.
News of the club’s activity spread quickly throughout the United States and the first of the state laws regarding the right of blind people to travel independently with the white cane was passed that year.
In 1963 the National Federation of the Blind called upon the governors of the fifty states to proclaim Oct. 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day in each of our 50 states. In October 1964, a joint resolution of Congress was signed into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim Oct. 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day.
Today white cane laws are on the books of every state in the US and in a few other countries, providing persons who are blind a legal status in traffic.
The white cane signifies that the pedestrian using it is blind or visually impaired, alerts motorists of the need to exercise special caution and provide the user the right of way and symbolizes the independence, confidence and skills of the person who is using it.