President Johnson proclaimed White Cane Day for October 15 in 1964. Originally it was to remind motorists about the laws that protect blind users of white canes or dog guides when crossing the street. Motorists are supposed to stop ten feet away from us even if we’re not crossing between those lines we can’t see! Over the years, I’ve been part of many fine photo ops, gotten numerous public officials to offer proclamations, etc.
Emphasizing safe travel in today’s world of inattentive drivers still makes a lot of sense. In 2011, President Obama also declared it Blind Americans Equality Day. It now emphasizes dignity and equality as well as safe travel.
As someone who grew up hating to use a cane because it made me look different, I like this destigmatizing of the cane approach. So I spent the evening of October 14 this year fortune-telling for the blind and sighted community members gathered at a local park to celebrate.
Games were played, hot dogs consumed and a short walk with signs in braille and print about famous blind and visually-impaired people was taken. Cane users from age three to at least sixty-three were there along with five guide dog users. Teachers of the visually-impaired, friends, families, volunteers from local Lions clubs and Center for Independent Living for Western Wisconsin were there to help and to learn and celebrate.
I did fortune-telling to show blind adults helping out and having fun at a community event. I was richly rewarded by the kids’ responses to their fortunes. One young gentleman told me I was “terrifyingly accurate”. At the end I did the thank yous, gave Lions members who’d helped print/braille magnets that said “You rock” and briefly pontificated about us all going Forward Together. Kids, parents, siblings and service providers made worthwhile connections I hope. Since the local paper and a television station covered it and mentioned the ten foot stop rule, maybe we’ll be safer traveling for the next 364 days of the year.