White Cane Safety Day

Ever wonder why people who are visually impaired will often use a white cane?  Why not black or brown?  According to the American Council of the Blind, the white cane originated in Europe when a fellow from Bristol was rendered blind after an accident in 1921.  James Briggs made history when he painted his walking stick white to alert motorists of his presence.

Woman using a white cane, image credited to Ed Yourdon on flickr
Woman using a white cane, image credited to Ed Yourdon on flickr

North America first utilized the white cane in 1930 when a member from the Lion’s Club witnessed a blind pedestrian crossing the street with a dark colored cane, which was barely visible to the surrounding traffic.  The following year, a national program was launched by Lion’s Club International that encouraged the use of white canes for better visibility.  White canes soon became a highly recognized symbol supporting the awareness of persons with visual impairment.

Illinois passed the first White Cane Ordinance in 1930, permitting those with white canes the right-of-way in traffic.  In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson made October 15th White Cane Safety Day.  National Federation of the Blind founder Dr. Jacobus tenBroek came up with the Model White Cane Law in 1966, recognizing White Cane Safety Day as a designated holiday in which each state governor must publically take notice the significance of the white cane.

The law also states that the visually impaired are fully entitled access to any public place, have the right to be accompanied by a guide dog, and warns motorists to take every precaution possible to avoid causing injury to persons who are visually impaired.  Read more about the law here.

White Cane Safety Day is nationally recognized every year on October 15th, though celebration dates for marches and speeches vary.  You can request a FREE white cane through the National Federation for the Blind Program.