If I was a betting man….I’d bet most people that they didn’t know that 15 October is officially “White Cane Safety Day” – I certainly didn’t!
The following extract from the US National Federation of the Blind explains:
“White Cane Safety Day: A Symbol of Independence
by Marc Maurer
In February of 1978 a young blind lady said, “I encounter people all of the time who bless me, extol my independence, call me brave and courageous, and thoroughly miss the boat as to what the real significance of the white cane is.”
The National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled on the 6th day of July, 1963, called upon the governors of the fifty states to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day in each of our fifty states. On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution of the Congress, HR 753, was signed into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as “White Cane Safety Day.” This resolution said: “Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives”, that the President is hereby authorized to issue annually a proclamation designating October 15 as White Cane Safety Day and calling upon the people of the United States to observe such a day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.’
Within hours of the passage of the congressional joint resolution authorizing the President to proclaim October 15 as White Cane Safety Day, then President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized the importance of the white cane as a staff of independence for blind people. In the first Presidential White Cane Proclamation President Johnson commended the blind for the growing spirit of independence and the increased determination to be self-reliant that the organized blind had shown. The Presidential proclamation said:
The white cane in our society has become one of the symbols of a blind person’s ability to come and go on his own. Its use has promoted courtesy and special consideration to the blind on our streets and highways. To make our people more fully aware of the meaning of the white cane and of the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind persons who carry it Congress, by a joint resolution approved as of October 6, 1964, has authorized the President to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day.
Now, therefore, I, Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States of America do hereby proclaim October 15, 1964 as White Cane Safety Day.
With those stirring words President Johnson issued the first White Cane Proclamation which was the culmination of a long and serious effort on the part of the National Federation of the Blind to gain recognition for the growing independence and self-sufficiency of blind people in America, and also to gain recognition of the white cane as the symbol of that independence and that self-reliance.”
Interestingly, the article continues: “The first of the state laws regarding the right of blind people to travel independently with the white cane was passed in 1930 …”, which suggests that until then it was unlawful – crikey, we’ve come a logn way!
Until now, I’ve never thought of my trusty friend in these terms, but I strongly agree with these powerful words. To mee, it’s simply Michael .. allow me to explain!
If you’re one of those people that names inanimate objects, like your car for instance, then you will understand me when I confess that my white stick is called Michael. There is logic in my madness! ,
Michael, as he shall be referred to in this blog, is not named after Michael Caine, as most people who query it guess, but after Michael Stich (pronounced “shtick”), the 1991 Wimbledon mens’ singles champion.
He’s named after the tennis player because I don’t refer to him as a white cane, but as a stick, or sometimes a bat!
Just for the record, Michael is actually a set of triplets: I have my everyday well-worn 141cm long Michael, my solo walking Michael who is 145cm long (thereby enabling me to detect hazards sooner whilst striding out purposefully, with the ambitious hope of avoiding said hazards), and a spare Michael which leans up against a wall in my office at work.
Michael accompanies me everywhere; if Michael could talk…. unlike yours truly, he’s seen some sights, I can tell you!!