On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution was passed by the Congress of the United States and signed by then President Lyndon B. Johnson designating October 15th of each year as National White Cane Safety Day. White Cane Safety Day is commemorated annually to highlight the importance of the white cane as a symbol of independence for people who are blind. In 2011, President Barack Obama also named October 15 as Blind Americans Equality Day.
Each year The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. commemorates National White Cane Safety Day by holding an event either in Seattle or in Spokane, Washington. This year’s event was hosted by Inland Northwest Lighthouse (INL) and took place on a chilly and rainy morning downtown Spokane. Mike Fagan, member of the Spokane City Council, Kathleen Weinand from the City of Spokane, along with Ryan Stewart and Staci Lehman from Spokane Regional Transportation Council (SRTC) joined staff and employees from INL on a guided walk downtown where participants had the opportunity to travel using vision loss simulators.
The chosen route provided staff and employees from INL the opportunity to highlight some of the progress that has taken place downtown Spokane regarding safe and accessible travel for pedestrians, while also allowing event participants to learn about some of the challenges that still remain regarding accessible travel for people who are blind and visually impaired . After the walk, event guests had the opportunity to debrief over coffee and talk about their experiences. Ryan Stewart, Senior Planner at SRTC said, “You can’t really understand what it is like to travel as a person who is blind until you actually try to do it yourself.”
The goal of this year’s White Cane Safety Day celebration was to bring city officials and planners together to raise awareness about accessibility issues for blind pedestrians along with the importance of making accessibility an important consideration when creating policies and making decisions. Thank you to everyone who participated in helping make National White Cane Safety Day a success!