This past Monday was White Cane Safety Day, a reminder that motorists share the road with pedestrians who may have visual impairments. A local support group, Central Kansas Association for the Visually Impaired, had planned to observe the day by walking around the courthouse square, but canceled the walk due to the weather. However, we’ve since had sunny days and pedestrians, some with canes, are back on the sidewalks and crossing city streets.
Whether they carry canes or not, as one letter writer in today’s Public Forum notes, it is up to motorists to be alert and SEE the people walking, jogging or riding bikes as they share the road. They also need to see the other vehicles, including the distracted driver who may not have the right of way but pulls into traffic anyhow. It’s a good idea to put down your phone when walking across the street, and an even better idea to put down your phone when driving, especially in town. Don’t be distracted.
But White Cane Safety Day is specifically a reminder to be aware of the blind and visually impaired. It’s not just about safety. When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation in 1964 that every Oct. 15 from that day forward would be White Cane Safety Day, he recognized the cane as a “staff of independence.”
“The white cane in our society has become one of the symbols of a blind person’s ability to come and go on his own,” the proclamation said. “Its use has promoted courtesy and special consideration to the blind on our streets and highways.”