Each year, White Cane Safety Day is commemorated around the world. Observed in the United States since 1964, this occasion celebrates the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired. On White Cane Awareness Day, individuals and organizations addressing the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired conduct activities in local communities, although the continuing pandemic limited events in 2020 and this year as well. For more information about the occasion, check out the Awareness Days website listing for White Cane Safety Day 2021.
Recalling the History of White Cane Day
By Ahmat Djouma
Observed in the United States every year on October 15, White Cane Day recognizes “the many achievements of blind and visually impaired citizens and the white cane as a tool promoting independent travel.” The use of the white cane began during the last century, in the 1920s, a time when it was not a common tool and there was no universal white cane. It started with artist James Big, who became blind and did not feel comfortable with traffic around his home so he started painting his cane white to make it more visible for traffic. Its popularity for mobility spread to England and France and, in 1931, the Lion’s Club in North America started promoting the use of the white cane for travel. Peoria, Illinois was the first community to pass a special ordinance for white cane travel and today in the United States, almost every state has a white cane law on the books providing legal status for its use by blind people in traffic. In 1964, a joint resolution of Congress declared that a proclamation would be issued each year designating October 15th as White Cane Safety Day. The white cane is not only a mobility tool for the blind, but it is also symbolic. It symbolizes independence, confidence, and the skills of the person using it. To learn more about the history of the white cane, visit VisionAware.