Tim's Take: White Cane Safety Day

Tim Guidera takes part in White Cane Safety Day.
Tim Guidera takes part in White Cane Safety Day.

By Tim Guidera - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - It's called the tool of independence.

And its importance cannot be overstated for the people who rely on it for mobility or the country that dedicates a day to celebrate white cane safety.

"It's an important day, because it lets the community get some interaction and get some visibility out toward blindness,'' Yinka Ola-Ajose, orientation and mobility specialist for the Savannah Association for Blindness, said of National White Cane Safety Day. "And it gives them a little more information on why it's important to be cautious of people in crosswalks who use white canes.''

So that's why we took to the streets of downtown Savannah, dozens of the area's vision impaired, and me just pretending to be for a story, sure, but also for an appreciation and an education.

Using a cane to help negotiate my way from the Savannah Association for the Blind to Wright Square, I discovered several things.

First that there are a lot of cracks in the streets of Savannah. And also that it's very easy to take your vision for granted.

"I think people don't realize how important it is,'' said Ola-Ajose.

But it was a bigger surprise to learn that, as old as it is, Savannah is actually ahead of its time in enhancing accessibilities for the blind, even listed on the national registry of most walk-able cities for the vision impaired.

"We have a lot of truncated domes, that's the rough surface at corners by the intersection,'' said SAB director Jim King. "We have a lot of audible signals. So, in many ways, Savannah is much more accessible than a lot of other places.''

Today a fraction of the city's blind community marched to underscore the meaning of white cane safety day.

"It means that we're recognized as citizens,'' said Robert Lee Brown, who lost his vision in 2005. "We pay taxes and we do everything normal people do.''

Even walk in the middle of Savannah's streets.

Of course, it's very different when vision impairment is a temporary project rather than a life-shaping condition, when your reason for participating in this walk was to understand what blind people face and know who they are.

Then again, the point of this event and this day is that all of us already do know that.

They are just like you and I,'' said Ola-Ajose. "In fact, no different than you or I because one of us could lose our vision tomorrow.''

And then be thankful for a day like today.

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