Why Blind Americans Equality Day Makes More Sense Than White Cane Safety Day

On October 15, 2011, a chilling ripple spread throughout numerous blind organizations and individuals. Many awoke and finalized preparations for presentations, educational sessions, and other activities affirming their acceptance of blindness. Leading up to October 15th, 2011, many banners, local government proclamations, and flyers bore the title, White Cane Day. After all, October 15 received designation of White Cane Day in 1964, following a 1963 NFB resolution to raise awareness of blindness, and since then nothing interrupted White Cane Day celebrations.

However, President Obama’s October 15th, 2011 proclamation changed this day from White Cane Day to Blind Americans Equality Day. Five years later, some individuals in the blindness community and society at large still prefers to call October 15th, White Cane Day.

Reflecting on the title of White Cane Day, it pays tribute to the most recognizable symbol of blindness that is not Stevie wonder or a guy wearing sunglasses at night, the white cane, or depending on state ordinances the White Cane with a red reflective segment. To many blind individuals, the white cane is more than a symbol of blindness, but their access to independence and freedom.

The nostalgia for the white cane limits itself to people who embrace the white cane or view the white cane as a symbol of blindness. This leaves out a rather signifiant number of blind people with different views. For example, the white cane does not symbolize those individuals who conceal their blindness over fears and stigmatizing beliefs. The white cane does not represent a growing number of individuals with functional visual impairments and do not use the white cane. The white cane does not represent blind individuals who maneuver their worlds thanks to guide dogs, sighted guides, or alternative methods. So much like how legal blindness informs very little about the wide spectrum of blindness, the white cane tells a story, albeit historically compelling, about a portion of the blind.

Basically, the white cane might symbolize blindness, but not all blind individuals embrace the white cane. This rationale supports my personal beliefs about applauding President Obama’s foresight to call October 15th, Blind Americans equality Day. My intent on October 15th is not to promote the white cane, but to promote equality for us, the blind, regardless of our levels of sight loss, aides for traveling, and adjustments to accepting ones blindness.