OKLAHOMA CITY ─ Public awareness is the point of National White Cane Safety Day, an event celebrated in mid-October every year by people who are blind or visually impaired.
In Oklahoma City, Heartland Council of the Blind advocates and Visual Services staff and clients are teaming up October 14 to show the connection between effective cane use and independence.
Visual Services is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
“We use white canes as mobility tools to locate curbs, steps, uneven pavement, and other physical obstacles in our paths,” said Jay Doudna, HCB member and Oklahoma Council of the Blind public information officer, who is blind. “We want the public to know for safety reasons that people with white canes are blind.”
The group will rally at 11 a.m. near the escalator in the center of Penn Square Mall, located at 1901 Northwest Expressway.
Bus route 8 stops at the northwest corner of Penn Square Mall parking lot near Cheesecake Factory.
Following remarks and the reading of a proclamation from Mayor Mick Cornett, the group will walk through the mall to demonstrate white cane use and answer questions.
National White Cane Safety Day activities will officially end at 2 p.m.; however, last year, many advocates stopped for lunch in the food court and stayed in the mall to begin Christmas shopping.
“This is the ninth year that Heartland Council of the Blind has sponsored the annual White Cane Day, Frances Poindexter, HCB president, said. “This event helps educate and make the public aware that white canes help blind people travel safely when they go out to do anything that sighted people do.”
Jean Jones, who is visually impaired, is a HCB leader and legislative information representative for Visual Services, which is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
“Blind people are customers just like everyone else,” Jones said. “We try to be full participants in the economy and our society, and we are able to be so if we can travel and get to stores like others.”
Legal blindness occurs when vision is 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best possible correction, or the visual field is restricted to 20 degrees or less.
The number of Oklahomans who have vision difficulties, even when using corrective lenses, totals 134,679, according to the 2016 one-year estimate from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. This estimate includes all levels of vision impairments, including those who may be white cane users.
For more information about National White Cane Safety Day in Oklahoma City, phone 405-642-1068 or 405-522-3382.
White Cane History
The first white cane laws were drafted around the time that National White Cane Safety Day was established by presidential proclamation in 1964. Today, similar laws exist in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia.
Under Oklahoma law, only blind people may carry white canes, with or without red tips, which are universally recognized as mobility aids for people with vision impairments.
State law also requires drivers to completely stop their vehicles 15 feet away from pedestrians who are visually impaired who are using white canes or dog guides. People who violate this law are guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to three months or $100 fine or both.”
The Heartland Council of the Blind is an organization of blind, visually impaired and sighted people from central Oklahoma who socialize, discuss issues related to visual impairment and advocate for a better quality of life. Heartland Council is a chapter of the Oklahoma Council of the Blind, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services annually assists more than 84,000 Oklahomans with disabilities. DRS’ Visual Services division helps Oklahomans who blind or visually impaired with career planning, employment and development of skills that help them function more independently with vision loss.