By Randy Pierce
In September 1990, I snapped the cane over my knee and threw it into the trash, walking away in a maelstrom of emotional turmoil. The White Cane was the symbol of blindness as it had been since Lions Club International made it so in 1930 in the United States. Certainly the positives of safety, mobility, and awareness are significant reasons for appreciation of the cane. Unfortunately, at the time it symbolized my difference and my disability with a poignant punch of negative impact. I was of course still in a stage of denial and needed to more fully understand and appreciate the positive potential in this tool as well as my own ability.
It is true the cane and its common tapping use alert others to the presence of a blind person. Unfortunately, this can result in even well intentioned individuals reacting in less than ideal ways. Those reactions can legitimately cause frustration and challenge but with education and awareness of what it really means to be blind, that awareness can lead to enhanced safety for all and the possibility for healthy and helpful communication and interaction. This latter is so vital to a better life it motivates my personal efforts to always provide the opportunity for better understanding of the blind and by the blind.
In October of 1964, Congress enacted HR 753 enabling the President to declare October 15 as “White Cane Safety Day.” This year in New Hampshire, Governor Lynch has proclaimed October 17th as “White Cane & Dog Guide Users Awareness Day”. All are invited to join the NH Association for the Blind at the State House Plaza today for presentations and demonstrations which can help all of us better understand the reality of the White Cane and Dog Guide.
On the latter front, Quinn will be glad to showcase the many reasons some find a dog to be a superior solution. Each particular individual has to decide which mobility method suits them best. Exploring those many choices and their various impacts is all part of the decision making process. A sad reality is that an unbelievably low number, approximately 10%, of the blind population use either a cane or dog guide. While that may be the right decision for some, this day hopes to provide a clear and effective demonstration of the many assorted reasons, benefits, and detriments to fully understanding the choice. For the sighted it will hopefully provide an enhanced understanding and appreciation for what is involved and how they might best react when next they encounter a White Cane or Dog Guide at work!