White Cane Safety Day

White Cane Safety Day in the U.S. was first officially recognized in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson. This day is commemorated annually with a presidential proclamation.

While sticks and canes had been used for centuries as tools to help blind people navigate safely, James Biggs from Bristol, England, claimed to have invented the white cane in 1921. The movement to recognize the white cane as a travel safety tool for blind people started in France in 1931. That same year, Peoria, Illinois issued the first ordinance for white cane travel. Read peer advisor Steve Kelley’s post to learn more about the day’s history and why it was started.

White Cane Laws vary across the nation. The American Council of the Blind (ACB) has compiled the laws by state. Most states give the right of way to individuals carrying white (or metallic) canes with or without red tips and/or using a dog guide, and the laws carry penalties for drivers who do not follow the law. But be sure to find out about the law in your state. Obtaining training in the use of the cane is strongly advised.

The Importance and Meaning of White Cane Safety Day

VisionAware Peer Advisor Steve Kelley states, “Today, the white cane isn’t merely a tool for travelers with vision loss. It’s a symbol for our community’s blind and visually impaired members. White Cane Safety Day occurs annually on October 15, acknowledging the numerous accomplishments of blind and visually impaired citizens and highlighting the white cane as a tool promoting independent travel.”

Ways to Celebrate

President Johnson’s original proclamation urged “civic and service organizations, schools, public bodies, and the media of public information to join in this observance with appropriate activities designed to promote continuing awareness of the significance of the white cane to blind persons.”

Organizations have embraced this, and celebrations are held nationwide. Today most are being held virtually. Here are a few samples across the nation in which you can participate:

Find out what is going on in your own state by googling White Cane Safety Day along with the name of your state