October 15th is White Cane Awareness Day

October 15th Is White Cane Awareness Day

Image description: Bulletin board with the words “White Cane Day” in red letters on a black background. The date “October 15” printed on white paper. A long white cane is attached to the board with brightly colored red tape.

White Cane Day – Celebrating accomplishments


Anna Cyr, KSSB Field Services Specialist; TSVI/COMS

Judy Imber, KSSB Field Services Specialist; COMS

Posted: October 14, 2019

October 15 was established in 1964 by President Johnson to celebrate the accomplishments of individuals who are blind or who have a visual impairment. He is quoted to say: “I urge civic and service organizations, schools, public bodies, and the media of public information to join in this observance with appropriate activities designed to promote continuing awareness of the significance of the white cane to blind persons.” opens in a new windowTo read the 1964 Quote in full see the LBJ Library

People typically associate the white cane with individuals who are blind but may not fully understand its purpose. The white cane is an essential tool for individuals who are blind or who have a visual impairment. For many people, it is considered a symbol of independence and critical for travel. However, there is so much more to this simple device. Here are some interesting facts about the use of the White Cane:

  • A white cane is most often used for three primary purposes: 
    • To identify the person using it as someone with a visual impairment
    • To detect obstacles in the path of the traveler
    • To detect drop-offs (steps/curbs, etc.) in the path of the traveler
  • An individual can have usable vision for reading and still need a white cane. A person with low vision may need to use a white cane for identification when crossing a street, to locate drop-offs if they have a lower field loss or for use at night if they have reduced vision in the dark.
  • The Lions Club is credited with the initiation of the use of the White Cane in the U.S. A club member in Peoria, Illinois, saw a man who was blind crossing the street in 1930 and suggested that they paint his black cane white to increase visibility.
  • A person who is using a White Cane may bump people or objects in their path with their cane. When this happens, they may STOP, say “excuse me” and find a way around the person or obstacle.
  • When it appears to you that a person who is traveling independently with a white cane needs assistance, please speak to them without touching them. Ask if they need assistance and if they indicate “yes,” let them instruct you in the best way to assist. See Twitter #JustAskDontGrab 

Since the original 1964 Proclamation given by President Johnson, the White Cane Day is celebrated across the United States on or around October 15. This year, in the state of Kansas, there are at least five regional events held in Topeka, Hutchinson, Wichita, Garden City, and Kansas City. 

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