October is National Disability Awareness month. During the month of October there are many events and occasions that are celebrated to highlight the skills, capabilities and most importantly independence of people with disabilities. One of the most celebratory events taken place every October is the 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 18, 2018 and will take place at City Hall, 901 Bagby Street from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
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.”
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 white can is not only a tool used by persons with a visually impairment, but it is also a symbol. The white cane symbolizes the independence the user has to shop, travel, and move about society safely without hindrances and barriers. The white cane also alerts people that the person using it has a visual impairment and to be more cautious when on the streets and sidewalks.
As we observe White Cane Safety Day, on October 18, 2018, 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.
Cornelius Booker is a senior member of the Regional Navigator team and a graduate of Oklahoma State University where he received his Bachelors in Marketing and later received his M.B.A with a focus on Business Marketing and Management. With his personal experience and passion for the disabled community, Cornelius’ insights are an invaluable asset to the Workforce Solutions organization.