Sep 9, 2021

White Caane Day 2021 - 2

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 Hi. My name is Jutta. I'm a member of the Malta Society of the Blind.

I just want to take the week of the White Cane Day as an opportunity to tell you a little bit about the history of the white cane.

What do you think when you see a white cane?

You might say it's just a tool used to be more independent. But it's not only that. It is also a symbol of people who are blind or severely visually impaired. Nowadays, the white cane is both: a tool AND a symbol for the blind. But let's look back - this has not always been the case.

Le'ts quickly scroll a few thousand years backwards.

Already in biblical times a shepherd's crook was used as a tool for traveling alone for a blind person to find and circumvent obstacles in their way, and for many centuries the "cane" was basically just used for traveling.

Only in the beginning of the 20th century, the cane got its role in the Western World in the way we know it now to be used by the blind as a symbol to make their environment aware of the fact that they are blind. One story says, that an Englishman  invented  the white cane when  he lost his eyesight after an accident and felt unsafe in the streets with increased motor vehicle traffic, and therefor he painted his walking stick white so he would "stick out" and be more visible to motorists.

With the invention of the "long white cane" which is intended and for use as a mobility aid, which sometimes has a red part at the bottom for better contrast against the ground or anothert ype consists of several red and white sections to indicate that the user has both a visual and a hearing impairment, the cane was returned to its original role as a tool but also  maintained the symbolic role as an identifier of "blind independence", as we know it today.


However, independence means the right and the ability to decide and have control over one's own life and wishes.

Therefore, when meeting a person that is using a white cane, please don't just assume something. Visually impaird or blind people can hear you. So if you want to help the person, don't just grab and phush him or her. Please ask, if help is wanted, and which kind of help is wanted. The person will let you know in which way you can help and will appreciate that you asked.

And I also want to tell you another "secret": Not every person who is visually impaird, partially sighted, wears sunglasses or uses a white cane or a guide dog. And vice versa, not every person who uses a white cane or a guide dog is totally blind.

That's another reason why we all should learn to never assume but ask whether or not and which help is wanted.

I hope you enjoyed this little excursion to the history of the white cane and back to its present meaning.

If you share this, more people will get a better understanding bout white cane, visuall impairment and how to deal with blind or visally impaired persons.


Thank you for listening, sharing and caring!