White Cane Day observed Oct. 15

LAKE CRYSTAL – White Cane Safety Day will be observed Tuesday, Oct. 15 . It is a national observance set aside since 1964 to celebrate the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired, and the important symbol of blindness and tool of independence, the white cane.

A celebration at the Minnesota State Capitol begins at 9 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda. A White Cane Day Walk begins at 11 a.m. For more information, visit www.msab.state.mn.us/News/whitecaneday/index.aspx

The mission of White Cane Day is to educate the world about blindness and how the blind and visually impaired can live and work independently while giving back to their communities; to celebrate the abilities and successes achieved by blind people in a sighted world; and to honor the many contributions begin made by the blind and visually impaired.

Jack Rupert of Lake Crystal was declared legally blind in 2009. He uses a white cane and guide dog for mobility.

“We’re trying to encourage use of the white cane for people who are visually impaired or completely blind,” Rupert said. “People with white canes have the legal right-of-way when crossing a street. It can be a big problem because lots of people don’t know what a white cane means.”

Rupert said his guide dog, an English black Labrador, is trained to guide him when walking across streets.

“My dog looks to see if traffic is coming. If she doesn’t want me to cross the street, she puts her head in front of my leg when I’m on the curb,” Rupert said. “I have low vision. I can also feel it in her halter when my dog wants to signal me.”

The National Federation for the Blind (NFB) offers free white, light, fiberglass canes to anyone who is blind or visually impaired (has low vision), needs a cane for personal use, has not requested a white cane within six months, or is requesting one for a child under age 18 living in the U.S. or Puerto Rico.

It is estimated that only 109,000 of the 1.3 million legally blind people in the United States use a white cane, according to the NFB.

For more information, visit freecane.nfb.org/ and fill out an online free white cane request. Other contact information is available at whitecaneday@gmail.com and www.whitecaneday.org Visit White Cane Day on Facebook at www.facebook.com/whitecaneday/info

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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