The White Cane: A Symbol of Independence

an image of an instructor teaching a student how to use a white cane

Orientation & Mobility students on a class outing in 2017

The month of October is Blindness Awareness Month, and on October 15, we will commemorate White Cane Safety Day. Celebrated since 1964, this day celebrates the accomplishments and capabilities of people with vision loss and blindness. The white cane stands as a symbol of independence.

Steve Kelley, a Peer Advisor with VisionAware, a program of American Printing House for the Blind, commented on the importance of the white cane for people who are blind or have low vision. “Today, the white cane isn’t just a tool used by travelers with vision loss. It is a symbol for members of our community who are blind or visually impaired. White Cane Safety Day is observed annually on October 15 to recognize the many achievements of blind and visually impaired citizens and the white cane as a tool promoting independent travel.”

Loss of vision is a life-altering event whether it occurs at a young age or later in life. The number of people with vision impairment or blindness in the United States is expected to double to more than 8 million by the year 2050. That is why early screenings to detect eye diseases, regular monitoring for vision changes, and access to training in non-visual skills and techniques are so important. 

What does the white cane mean for someone with vision loss? It allows them to “touch” their environment as they walk through it. With the cane, they avoid obstacles, find steps and curbs, step over cracks or uneven places in the sidewalk, find doorways, and get into cars and buses. The cane allows a person who is blind to move quickly and confidently instead of shuffling along apprehensively. The white cane means mobility, safety and freedom.

No one needs to face vision loss alone. Society for the Blind is the Sacramento region’s comprehensive center for people with vision loss. During the month of October, let’s raise awareness and meet the challenge of vision loss with renewed hope, so people living with low vision or blindness can discover, develop and achieve their full potential.