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International White Cane Day - 15 October 2008

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
International White Cane Day - 15 October 2008

15 OCTOBER 2008 - International White Cane Day (White Cane Day) is observed annually on 15 October in recognition of the White Cane - the recognised international symbol of blindness and independence. The White Cane is a tool used by blind, deafblind and vision impaired people to navigate their environment. It provides a blind person with information such as different textures, sound clues and whether or not obstacles are ahead.

The Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand (Association) celebrates White Cane Day nationwide by promoting public awareness of the White Cane.

Born blind, the Association's National President Clive Lansink said ``today is the blind community's opportunity to remind sighted pedestrians and motorists about the White Cane and what it means, and of the need to exercise simple courtesies and common sense when approaching a blind person. I have used a White Cane all of my life and this gives me the freedom to travel independently and safely without reliance on friends or family. I can easily distinguish between the road and footpaths and most importantly my cane allows me to walk with confidence.''

The National President said ``I have had near-misses on controlled intersections when crossing and motorists have not observed my White Cane and tried to beat changing lights. Not only are they breaking the law but their inability to recognise the White Cane as a symbol of blindness actually endangers my life. More promotion is needed so that everyone knows what the White Cane means.''

The Association urges the public and society to recognise the rights of blind people and in conjunction with International White Cane Day asks that special attention is given to:  White Cane users  Cutting back low hanging branches  Moving obstacles from footpaths  Ensuring cars are not parked on or across footpaths (especially in driveways or entrances to buildings)

These simple acts can make a significant difference in the lives of blind, deafblind and vision-impaired citizens, and of course to pedestrians in general.

Founded in 1945, the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand is this country's main blindness consumer advocacy organisation. The Association's philosophy is `blind people speaking for ourselves' Its role is to advocate on behalf of its members to Government, providers of blindness and disability-specific services (including the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind) and providers of services where blind people have particular requirements that should be taken into account.

The White Cane became synonymous with blindness in 1921 through the efforts of a photographer in the UK who had lost his vision. Then, in 1930, a Lions Club member watched as a man who was blind attempted to cross the street with a black cane that was barely visible to motorists against the dark pavement. The Lions Club decided to paint the cane white to make it more visible. In 1931, the Lions Clubs International adopted the promotion of white canes for blind people as a national programme in North America.

International White Cane Day was first observed on 15 October 1964.

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