Imagine taking a 15-minute walk around the Barton County Courthouse. Now imagine taking that walk with your eyes closed or your vision obscured.
Members of the Central Kansas Association of the Visually Impaired will ask people to share that experience on Wednesday, Oct. 15, in observance of White Cane Safety Day. Weather permitting, people will be walking around the courthouse square from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
While they won’t actually be blindfolding people, CKAVI Vice President Scharna Doll said members do hope to raise awareness. After all, while a white cane is a tool that can help someone navigate the way through an airport or across a street, it’s also a reminder to others that the person is there. Motorists, in particular, need to give pedestrians space and yield the right of way – especially if they realize the person may not see them clearly.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize what it’s like,” Doll said. “It’s hard to explain.”
She has been legally blind since undergoing a surgery in 2017 that had nothing to do with her vision. She doesn’t need a white cane all of the time, but she’s noticed that in crowds people tend to bump into her or treat her like she’s stupid if she can’t read a sign.
That’s where the CKAVI support group has been helpful. At monthly meetings, members learn of adaptive tools and possible funding sources for them. Doll was able to watch her son play football last year with a headset that works like binoculars. There are also tools that can magnify a menu in a restaurant or read a document at home.
About White Can Safety Day
Canes and staves were some of the oldest tools to help humans with vision loss retain their mobility. The modern-day white cane and the technique for its use evolved shortly after World War I and was perfected during World War II.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the resolution marking Oct. 15 at White Cane Safety Day in 1964. Timothy Hornik, a retired U.S. Army Captain and founder and CEO of Blind Not Alone LLC, writes that the day creates awareness of a tool that represents freedom for people with visual impairments.
“When walking, the blind place more than their best foot forward,” Hornik said. “Rather, we proudly lead with our iconic symbol, the white cane. Each white cane represents the dignity, freedom, and possibilities accrued through generations of trailblazing blinded individuals fighting for equality to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These emotions arise with every tap of the white cane or step from a guide dog. Without our devices and service dogs for guidance, those of us with a visual impairment would be left in the dark. However, through our adaptive solutions, we proudly and independently conquer the world around us. Nothing else comes close to replicating what the white cane means. Thus, every October 15th, communities to international organizations celebrate White Cane Safety Day.”
Central Kansas Association of the Visually Impaired meets every fourth Monday of the month from 1-2 p.m. at the Great Bend Senior Center, 2005 Kansas Ave. For more information, contact Paul Berscheidt at 620-793-5645, George Strobel at 620-617-8980 or Scharna Doll at 620-786-0731.