White Cane Day, which is usually marked on October 15 every year, as an international awareness raising event across world including Pakistan, celebrates the importance of the white cane and promotes a safe environment for long cane users.
The white cane can be perceived by many as a symbol of blindness or visual impairment. White canes are recognized for providing the visually impaired with greater mobility, allowing them to participate more within their communities. Blind and visually impaired people have used canes as mobility tools for centuries but it was not until after World War I that the white cane was properly introduced. In modern times there are different varieties of this tool, each serving slightly varied needs.
The white cane was invented in 1930 in the United States of America, as a walking instrument for the blind to enable them to move freely and independently and detect obstacles in their way. Since the invention of the White Cane, it has become a significant instrument to the blind. It serves as traffic sign and pleads for safety to the police, motorists and pedestrians, urging them to show to the blind the right way. The white cane also helps the blind have access to all types of public transportation. This device detects obstacles in the way of the blind and acts as an international symbol of blindness, calling for help wherever and whenever the user finds it difficult to move freely. People who are blind or vision-impaired might choose to use a white cane as a mobility aid. Different types of canes are available in the world. These include the symbol cane, which informs others that the person has vision impairment and may need assistance. It is not a mobility aid or physical support. There is also a white walking stick, which indicates that a person has vision impairment and provides physical support. The long cane is designed as a mobility device and acts as an obstacle detector, with users sweeping it from side-to-side, one stride in front of them. The aim is to get clues about their environment for quick reaction. This sweeping technique helps locate potential hazards on the ground and allows the person to know when they are approaching a step. The cane also detects tactile paving to indicate that the person has come to a designated crossing point where it is safe to cross the road.
The use of different surfaces underfoot conveys important information to people using a cane, as they navigate the streets in a very different way compared to sighted people. The feel and sound of a cane swept across the pavement is very different to the feel and sound of a cane touching tactile paving and immediately alerts the person that they are approaching a crossing.