In 1964 Congress designated October 15 as White Cane Safety Day. The law says: “An operator of a vehicle shall stop the vehicle before approaching closer than 10 feet to a pedestrian who is carrying a cane or walking stick which is white in color or white trimmed with red and which is held in an extended or raised position or who is using a dog guide and shall take such precautions as may be necessary to avoid accident or injury to the pedestrian.”
Some tips when approaching a blind person:
- You don’t need to shout.
- Ask if the person needs help, don’t just assume they do. Many blind people are perfectly capable of getting where they need to go without help.
- If there is a lot of street noise, gently touch the person on the arm to let them know you are speaking to them.
- If you are giving directions – don’t point. Or say “Over there.”
- If a person does need help, offer them an elbow they can grasp. Remember to be aware of obstacles they can’t see. They’re trusting you when you lead, so be conscientious.
Now here are three questions and answers about the law, just for fun:
Q: Shouldn’t I just honk instead?
A: Only if you want to raise my blood pressure because I think I’m going to be run down.
Q: What if it’s a black dog instead of a white cane?
A: Law still applies. They’re trained, but you’ll be the one who gets the points on your license and has to clean up the mess if my guide dog and I become your hood ornament.
Q: Why do some white canes have red tips?
A: Good for you for noticing! They have red tips to shoot death rays at those who don’t stop.
All kidding aside, thanks for observing White Cane Safety Day every day of the year.