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White cane

People who are blind or have low vision use a special white cane for two purposes:
  • to feel obstacles, as well as the curbs when crossing a street, etc.; thus it "lengthens" one arm.
  • to alert others of the individualís blindness.

Blind people have used a cane as a tool for travel for centuries but it was not until after World War I that the white cane was introduced.

In 1921 James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol who became blind after an accident, was feeling uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home so painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible.

In 1931 in France, Guilly d'Herbemont launched a national white stick movement for blind people.

In the USA, the introduction of the white cane is attributed to the Lions Clubs International. In 1930, a Lions Club member watched as a man who was blind attempted to cross the street with a black cane that was barely visible to motorists against the dark pavement. The Lion's decided to paint the cane white to make it more visible. In 1931, Lions Clubs International began a programme promoting the use of white canes for people who are blind.

The first special White Cane Ordinance was passed in December 1930 in Peoria, Illinois. It granted blind pedestrians protections and the right-of-way while carrying a white cane.

On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution of the Congress, HR 753, was signed into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as "White Cane Safety Day". President Lyndon Johnson was the first to make this proclamation.

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