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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Oct. 15 is White Cane Safety Day

A joint resolution approved by Congress on October 6, 1964 authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day. Legislation followed to protect the safety of pedestrians using a white cane. Today, there is a variant of the White Cane Law on the statute books of every state in the country.
 
White Cane Safety Day, also known as Blind Americans Equality Day, celebrates the numerous accomplishments and contributions of individuals who are blind or visually impaired, and it serves as a reminder that people who use a white cane deserve to travel safely. Thousands of blind and visually impaired individuals around the state of Wisconsin use a white cane for mobility and safe travel. 
 
While a powerful tool for independence, the white cane is also a reminder to all drivers to obey Wisconsin’s White Cane Law: “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.” - Statute N. 346.26(1)
 
Governor Walker signed a proclamation that recognizes October 15, 2017 as White Cane Safety Day in Wisconsin. A proclamation was also brought before all Wisconsin Legislators by State Sen. LaTonya Johnson and Assemblyman David Steffen, proclaiming October 15, 2017 as White Cane Safety Day.
 
Speaking on behalf of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, CEO/Executive Director Denise Jess remarked, “The white cane or a service animal are the best tools at our disposal, for signaling drivers, bicyclists and other pedestrians, that those of us who are blind or visually impaired cannot see your approach.  For everyone’s safety and well-being, please yield the right-of-way to a person showing a white cane or walking with a dog guide.”
 
On Tuesday, September 5, 2017, multiple news sources throughout the state reported that a 57-year-old Madison man who is blind, and his service dog, were struck by a vehicle in a hit and run car accident. While the man only had minor injuries, his service dog was immediately taken to a veterinarian for medical attention. In light of this incident, the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired wishes to remind both drivers and pedestrians of Wisconsin's White Cane Law. According to a 1999 study conducted by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, if a person is hit by a vehicle going 40 miles per hour, the pedestrian has a 95 percent fatality rate.

The Council provides one free white cane every two years to individuals who qualify.  To learn more, visit www.wcblind.org or call 1-800-783-5213.

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