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Melanie White, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist

Abstract: Students, adults, and volunteers from North Texas gather with community members each year to celebrate White Cane Safety Day. They learn about safe and efficient modes of travel for individuals with blindness and visual impairments, including the use of guide dogs, white canes, and public transportation. This article describes some of the activities for the 2018 North Texas White Cane Safety Day and provides suggestions for others on creative ways to celebrate White Cane Safety Day in 2019. 

Keywords: White Cane Safety Day, Guide Dogs for the Blind, guide dog puppy training, public transportation, white cane, Texas White Cane Safety Law, Orientation and Mobility, O&M

White Cane Safety Day is a yearly event to celebrate and explore independent travel for individuals with blindness and visual impairments in their communities. Lyndon B. Johnson signed the first White Cane Safety Day proclamation in 1964. White Cane Safety Day is now a national observance on October 15 of every year to celebrate the achievements of people who are blind/visually impaired and the white cane, which is a tool for independence. 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 each state in the United States.

The North Texas White Cane Safety Day Committee arranges a variety of activities to celebrate White Cane Safety Day each year. The Committee is made up of individuals who are blind and visually impaired, certified orientation and mobility specialists, Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind staff, Texas Workforce Commission staff, the Fort Worth Chapter of the American Council of the Blind, the Fort Worth Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, members of local Lions Clubs, the current chair of the Lions Organ and Eye Bank, the staff of the Tarrant County Commissioners Court, City of Fort Worth Mayor’s Committee on Persons with a Disability, Alexander Vision Center, and Trinity Metro staff. The committee meets monthly beginning in January of each year. The mission of the committee is to educate the public about the White Cane Safety Law and to promote independent travel of individuals with a visual impairment. The committee has three goals: 

  • Host a North Texas White Cane Safety Day event on or close to October 15 in recognition of White Cane Safety Day.
  • Educate the community about the White Cane Safety law at the event, at a Fort Worth City council meeting, at a meeting of the Tarrant County Commissioners Court, and by speaking to local Lions Clubs and local media.
  • Promote independence by including activities during the White Cane Safety event that allow for independent travel.

This formal event began 10 years ago with a few people from the Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind, the Texas Workforce Commission, the American Council of the Blind – Fort Worth chapter, and Tarrant County staff.  Each year the North Texas White Cane Safety Day event has become more organized and has grown in numbers. The 2018 event had 480 students, adults, and volunteers. It is anticipated that more than 500 people will participate in 2019. A theme is chosen for each year’s activities, and the theme for 2018 was MOBILITY TECH: THE NEXT FRONTIER—To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before. 

Participants and volunteers gathered in the Fort Worth Stockyards on October 18, 2018 to celebrate White Cane Safety Day. Although October 15th is the official day for White Cane Safety Day, it was celebrated in North Texas on a Thursday so that school children could more easily participate. Students from 27 school districts in Region 11 ESC and Region 10 ESC attended. 

Participants at the celebration enter Stockyards Station in Fort Worth. A sign has a picture of a folding cane with the words “YES I CANE!”

Participants at the 2018 White Cane Safety Day celebration at the Fort Worth Stockyards.

The day consisted of a scavenger hunt where participants walked a route to various locations where puppy raisers from Guide Dogs for the Blind - Fort Worth Puppy Raisers were waiting to tell them about the skills a puppy must learn to become a dog guide. There are nine phases of skills that puppies must learn, and it is important information for dog guide users to know as well. Each of the puppy raisers was marked with a beacon so that participants could locate them with their mobile phones. Verbal directions and maps were also provided. As the participants located each destination, the puppy raisers told them their piece of the skills a puppy needs to learn. At the last destination, participants met an individual who travels with a dog guide. She informed them of the skills that a dog guide user must have in order to learn to travel with a dog guide.

Black lab puppy wearing a green sign with white letters which says “Guide Dog Puppy”. He has a muzzle and his leash is held by a puppy trainer.

Puppy in training for Guide Dogs for the Blind with his puppy raiser.

After the scavenger hunt, participants had an opportunity to explore a stationary city bus in order to compare how it is different from a school bus and to practice for a bus ride. Some of those differences were coin or rider card machines, seats that face the center, stairs, front and back doors, and strips to push to alert the driver that you want to exit. They also explored the Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind’s Independent Living RV which shows how to set up your home if you are blind or visually impaired. Finally, participants had an opportunity to ride a city bus. This is an important transportation option for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. 

Participants line up to explore the Independent Living RV from the Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind. A Fort Worth city bus is parked in front.

White Cane Safety Day participants preparing to explore the Independent Living RV from the Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind. 

During the day, those who attended the 2018 North Texas White Cane Safety Day also had the opportunity to visit with a variety of  vendors: Ambutech Cane, the Fort Worth Chapter of the American Council of the Blind, Christal Vision, City of Fort Worth Mayor’s Committee on Persons with Disabilities, Community Eye Clinic, Computers for the Blind, Cornerstone Assistance Network, Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind, Guide Dogs for the Blind – Fort Worth Puppy Raisers, Lonestar Roadrunners Beep Baseball team, the Fort Worth Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, Sports Extravaganza – Region 10, Texas Workforce Solutions – Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Trinity Metro – A.C.C.E.S.S. 

Then, after all the White Cane Safety Day activities and events were completed, participants gathered in the Stampede Room of the Fort Worth Stockyards for a group picture and BBQ lunch provided by Risky’s BBQ. A short program was presented that included a review of the White Cane laws, a trivia game, and some important awards that are awarded each year to individuals and teams that excel in meeting the goals of the North Texas White Cane Safety Day event. Dave Jepson with Computers for the Blind also awarded three students refurbished computers that had been outfitted with appropriate software. To round off the day of technology, Shawn Keen from the Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind demonstrated AIRA glasses (for more information on AIRA, please see Chris Tabb’s article in the previous issue of this newsletter, https://www.tsbvi.edu/spring-2019-menu/580-tx-senseabilities/spring-2019/6003-there-s-an-app-for-that).

We would like to thank all of the groups that volunteered to help make the 2018 North Texas White Cane Safety Day such a success. They included:  AT&T, Bryon Nelson HS FFA Puppy Raisers, Cook Children’s Alexander Resource Vision Center, ESC - Region XI, ESC - Region X, Lions Clubs (Benbrook Lions Club, Forest Hill Lions Club, Lions Organ and Eye Bank, Southeast Fort Worth Lions Club), Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Fort Worth Puppy Raisers, the Fort Worth Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, Tarrant County, Texas Workforce Solutions, Trinity Metro - A.C.C.E.S.S., TruHorizon Environmental Solutions, and many individuals who are interested in the meaning behind White Cane Safety Day. We appreciate the support from all of these great people and organizations!

The North Texas White Cane Safety Day started out small with a few individuals who wanted to bring attention to the White Cane laws and celebrate the independence of individuals who are blind and visually impaired. It has grown over the past ten years, and each year has been better than the previous one. This will be the 10th year for our area-wide celebration, and students and adults alike are looking forward to a day of exciting activities on October 15, 2019. We hope that this article provides information and suggestions on how others can celebrate White Cane Safety Day. Please check out our website at http://www.whitecanesafetyday.info/ and “Like” us on Facebook at North Texas White Cane Safety Day. Stay tuned for even more information and ideas on ways to celebrate White Cane Safety Day after our 2019 celebration!