White cane helps visually impaired live normal lives

October 15, 2009 (CHICAGO) President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law 45 years ago to promote safety and independence among people who are blind and visually impaired.

Although White Cane Safety Day is not a national holiday, it is important to people who are blind and visually impaired.

Dawn Turco is the senior vice president of educational operation at Hadley School for the Blind and is also visually impaired.

"Today it seems like the general public is not aware of what that person carrying the white cane means in terms of their reaction to them. Especially now when we have the quiet cars, crossing the street can be perilous already, but for a blind person the quiet car is a problem," Turco said.

Hadley School is working with The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired to increase awareness for people using white canes, especially when they are out in public.

"Drivers need to yield to people who are traveling with white canes," Janet Szlyk, Chicago Lighthouse Executive Director. "White canes are made of a material that's the same as stop signs and traffic signs, so there's high visibility for them, and the point is to bring attention to drivers so that they pay more attention to white canes and people traveling with them."

Szlyk says 80 percent of the blind and visually impaired community uses white canes.

Ray Campbell is one of them. He has been blind for 32 years.

"I travel all the way from Glen Ellyn all the way to Chicago everyday to work and there's absolute no way I could do it with out using a white cane," Campbell said.

People who use white canes go through mobility training. Cathy Pasinski is an instructor.

"Many of our blind and visually impaired travelers are able to successfully use the white cane to travel safety from point A to B," Pasinski said. "The biggest challenge is to be confident and to trust that you are able to use the cane successfully to get over the fear, the initial fear of being able to be independent."

As more people understand the functions of the white cane, it will be easier for people using them to navigate in their environments.

"Just because a person is blind and uses a white cane that they're not any less capable, they can do things in their lives just like anyone else," Campbell said.



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