Throughout the United States, October 15th celebrates White Cane Day. Dating back to President Johnson’s 1964 Presidential Proclamation, today allow us with a visual impairment to demonstrate possibilities. Whether you think of today as White Cane Day, White Cane Safety Day, or Blind Americans Equality Day, I request you set aside any preconceived notions you may possess about blindness and learn how we each view today.
To me, blindness is only a term describing my inability to utilize my optical system fully established by evolution. Yes, blindness is not a term that describes the inability for an individual to receive any light, rather blindness refers to a range of conditions impacting one’s ability to do things like read normal print, use peripheral or central fields of view, recognize colors, or a host of other barriers to pursue a specific goal..
Therefore, calling today Blind Americans Equality Day makes more sense. Not all the conditions encompassing blindness or visual impairments requires a white cane. Even those who may benefit from a white cane may not rely or even use a white cane to achieve personal independence. Rather, we each employ different tactics and tools to achieve our personal goals. So today is about treating us with a visual impairment equally.
Yes, this counters efforts to recognize the white cane as the symbol of blindness. Not everyone who is blind looks at the cane as a piece of their identity. Likewise, not everyone who is possesses a visual impairment even acknowledges themselves as blind. Therefore, we need to approach those who are blind or visually impaired just like you would anyone else. We are no different than anyone else.
To assist a blind individual, achieve independence, I request the observance of a few guidelines:
- Do not assume we are all totally blind, rather 85% of those with a visual impairment possess residual sight
- We hear you just fine, so do not shout
- Do not take our arms or grab our hands if we look lost, rather ask how you may assist
- We are fully capable of making decisions, so do not turn towards our companions to ask what it is we would like
- Guide dogs guide us, so just completely ignore them
- Introduce yourself when speaking to us, since many of us do not possess the magical ability to recognize you by your voice
- Focus on our goals