Where It All Started
For centuries around the world, cane, staff or stick was used to guide blind people in their travels. It was used to alert them of the obstacles in their paths. The use of white cane was claimed to have started in 1921 which was attributed to James Briggs, a Bristol photographer who lost his sight due to an accident. He used the cane for the pedestrians and vehicle users to know that he was blind. He chose to paint his cane white so it would be visible even at night. From then, white cane was used not just to aid persons with visual impairment but to serve as a sign for people to know their disability.
In the Philippines, the “White Cane Safety Day” was celebrated every first of August in accordance with RA 6759 of 1989, which declares that it is the policy of the state to promote and protect the physical, moral, and social wellbeing of all persons with visual impairment.
Since then, efforts have been made to celebrate the “White Cane Safety Day” by organizing programs and services for visually impaired and spread awareness to persons without disability.
The Advocacy Continues
For the “Sight Saving Month,” which is celebrated every August, the “White Cane Safety Day” served as an opening activity. Different programs like Braille writing contest was held.
The theme for the 30th White Cane Safety Day Celebration was “Puting Baston, Simbolo ng Kalayaan ng Taong May Kapansanan sa Paningin: Dapat Kilalanin, Igalang at Pagtibayin.” This theme emphasizes the role of the white cane as the symbol that someone is a person is blind or visually impaired.
As part of the grand celebration, an activity called “White Cane Walk” led by the Philippine Blind Union. The walkathon was joined by different organizations such as resources for the blind, Visuals, NOVEL, and other organizations. ATRIEV also joined the walkathon at least 25 representatives including the staff, trainers, and trainees.
The White Cane Walk started from Camp Aguinaldo Gate 2 Capinpin avenue and walk along the North bound lane of EDSA towards the People Power Monument where the program proper was held. Hundreds of visually impaired walked with their White Canes as a symbol of their freedom.
The program’s guest honor representing DepEd Sec. Briones was Undersecretary Tonisito Umali of the Events and Legal Affairs and Liason Office of the Department of Education. Philippine Blind Union gave away White Canes and braille with stylus. BENETECH-Bookshare, a non-profit organization which advocacy is Global Literacy and Inclusion gave away 3 Google Nexus Tablets through Philippine Representative Ms. Aggie Angeles.
Looking back the journey for having an inclusive society for the visually impaired has gone a long way. The celebration of the White Cane Safety Day won’t end in the celebration itself. It will continue through the organizations who work hard to organize events that will spread awareness, through the visually impaired who show their talents and skills, and prove to everyone that disability will never be a hindrance to one’s success, and to people who strive to understand people with visual impairment and treat them as equals. With this, we are looking forward to a more accessible community for the visually impaired.