World White Cane Day – guiding the Blind
White Cane Safety Day is a national observance in the United States, celebrated on October 15 of each year since 1964. The date is set aside to celebrate the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired and the important symbol of blindness and tool of independence, the white cane.
On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress, H.R. 753, was signed into law as Pub.L. 88–628, and codified at 36 U.S.C. § 142. This resolution authorized the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as “White Cane Safety Day”.
The mission of White Cane Day is to educate the world about blindness and how the blind and visually impaired can live and work independently while giving back to their communities, to celebrate the abilities and successes achieved by blind people in a sighted world and to honor the many contributions being made by the blind and visually impaired.
World Health Organization (WHO) defines blindness as the inability to count fingers in daylight at a distance of 3 metres. There is a vast majority of blind people in developing countries. It has been found that there is a high prevalence in Saudi Arabia and the lowest incidence in Europe.
Two thirds of the blindness found in developing countries is preventable. The primary cause is cataract, which comprises 50 to 60 percent of all cases. This, however, is curable by a minor surgery. Trachoma (and associated bacterial conjunctivitis) is another important cause of blindness. Malnutrition, lack of vitamin A, causes permanent blindness. These can be prevented and that is why the White Cane Day is important. It spreads awareness and rallies support for the blind.
International White Cane Safety Day (October 15th) gives Lions an opportunity to increase awareness of the white cane traffic safety laws. According to the World Blind Union, which is a global organization representing the 285 million blind or partially sighted people worldwide, “White Cane Day is observed worldwide to recognize the movement of blind people from dependency to full participation in society.”