We love celebrating holidays, special events, unique and wacky days. In October there is Moldy Cheese Day, National Homemade Cookies Day, International Bacon Day, Skyscraper Day and many more just to name a few. October is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month. There are many events to be celebrated as a part of NDEAM; however, one of the most significant days to celebrate is White Cane Safety Day.
White Cane Safety Day symbolizes the freedom, strength, endurance, and courage of individuals that are blind or visually impaired. This year, White Cane Safety Day will be celebrated on October 19, 2017 and will take place at City Hall, 901 Bagby Street from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
White Cane Safety Day celebrates blind and visually impaired people’s achievements in the United States on October 15 every year. It also reminds people about the how the white cane is an important tool in helping the blind and the visually impaired live with greater independence.
Why is it called White Cane Safety Day?
Throughout history, the cane, staff, and stick have existed as traveling aids for the blind and visually impaired. Dating back to biblical times, records show that a shepherd’s staff was used as a tool for solitary travel. The blind used such tools to alert them of obstacles in their path. It was not until the twentieth century that the cane, as we know it today, was promoted for use by the blind as a symbol to alert others to the fact that an individual was blind.
The Presidential proclamation emphasized the significance of the use of the white cane as both a tool and as a visible symbol. In the first White Cane Proclamation, President Johnson commended blind people for the growing spirit of independence and the increased determination to be self-reliant and dignified. He said in part: “A 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 opportunity for mobility of the blind on our streets and highways.”
Since 1964, the President has proclaimed October 15th as White Cane Safety Day. On October 15, 2000, President Bill Clinton again reminded us of the history of the white cane as a tool, and its purpose as a symbol of blindness: “With proper training, people using the white cane can enjoy greater mobility and safety by determining the location of curbs, steps, uneven pavement, and other physical obstacles in their path. The white cane has given them the freedom to travel independently to their schools and workplaces and to participate more fully in the life of their communities. It reminds us that the only barriers against people with disabilities are discriminatory attitudes and practices that our society has too often placed in their way.”
As we observe White Cane Safety Day, on October 19, 2017, let us recall the history of the white cane; its emergence as a tool and a symbol throughout history; a staff of independence and a symbol of courage, perseverance, and endurance.
Thelisa Lavergne is a member of the Regional (Texas Gulf Coast) Navigator team for Workforce Solutions. She specializes in providing training and education to the Gulf Coast community, career staff offices, and employers in assisting individuals with disabilities. She brings with her over 10 years of experience and expertise working in the nonprofit industry serving Houston’s disadvantaged community; individuals and families experiencing homelessness, victims of domestic abuse, and individuals and families experiencing hunger. However, her greatest contribution to Workforce Solutions is her compassion, commitment, and dedication to serving others. She holds a M.A. in Organizational Management, a B.S. in Training and Development, B.S. in Counseling, and a Certification as a Personal Fitness Trainer.