QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2004-10 > 1097856798
Subject: Excerpt Of History
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2004 12:13:18 EDT
Many people who are blind or visually impaired use the white cane both as a
mobility tool, and as a courtesy to others. Not all modern white canes are
designed to fulfill the same primary function, however: There are at least four
different varieties of this tool, each serving a slightly different need.
* The Long Cane: This “traditional” white cane is designed primarily
as a mobility tool used to feel obstacles in the path of a user. Cane length
depends upon the height of a user, and is traditionally measured from the
sternum. Some organizers favour the use of much longer canes. though.
* The “Kiddie” Cane: This version works in the same way as an adult’s
long cane, but is designed for use by children.
* The Identification Cane: The ID cane is used primarily to alert
others as to the bearer’s visual impairment. It is often lighter and shorter than
the long cane, and is more limited as a mobility tool.
* The Support Cane: The white support cane is designed primarily to
offer physical stability to a visually impaired user. By virtue of its colour,
the cane also works as a means of identification. This tool has very limited
potential as a mobility device.
Mobility canes are often made from aluminium, graphite, carbon-fibre or
composite fibre, and can come with a wide variety of tips depending upon user
Blind people have used canes as mobility tools for centuries, but it was not
until after World War I that the white cane was introduced.
In 1921 James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol who became blind after an
accident, was feeling uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home
so painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible.
In 1931 in France, Guilly d'Herbemont launched a national white stick
movement for blind people.
In the USA, the introduction of the white cane is attributed to the Lions
Clubs International. In 1930, a Lions Club member watched as a man who was blind
attempted to cross the street with a black cane that was barely visible to
motorists against the dark pavement. The Lions decided to paint the cane white
to make it more visible. In 1931, Lions Clubs International began a
programme promoting the use of white canes for people who are blind.
The first special White Cane Ordinance was passed in December 1930 in Peoria,
Illinois. It granted blind pedestrians protections and the right-of-way
while carrying a white cane.
On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution of the Congress, HR 753, was signed
into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15
of each year as "White Cane Safety Day". President Lyndon Johnson was the
first to make this proclamation.