The Perfect Focus

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National White Cane Safety Day


October 15th is National White Cane Safety Day

Folding White Cane

In 1921, James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol, England, became blind following an accident. Because he was feeling uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home, he painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible. In 1930, the late George A. Bonham, President of the Peoria Lions Club (Illinois) introduced the idea of using the white cane with a red band as a means of assisting the blind in independent mobility. The Peoria Lions approved the idea, white canes were made and distributed, and the Peoria City Council adopted an ordinance giving the bearers the right-of-way to cross the street.

News of the club’s activity spread quickly to other Lions clubs throughout the United States, and their visually handicapped friends experimented with the white canes. Overwhelming acceptance of the white cane idea by the blind and sighted alike quickly gave cane users a unique method of identifying their special need for travel consideration among their sighted counterparts. Also in 1931, in France, Guilly d’Herbemont recognized the danger to blind people in traffic and launched a national “white stick movement” for blind people. She donated 5,000 white canes to people in Paris.

Today white cane laws are on the books of EVERY STATE in the US and many other countries, providing blind persons a legal status in traffic. The white cane now universally acknowledges that the bearer is blind. For specific information contact your local government office for motor vehicles.

Model White Cane Law

White Cane Safety Days:

To make the American people more fully aware of the meaning of the white cane and of the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind person who carries it, on October 6, 1964, the U.S. Congress approved a resolution authorizing the President of the US to annually issue a proclamation designating October 15th as “National White Cane Safety Day.”

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), a leading organization for the blind, has established the third week in May as “White Cane Week.” During this week, a special concentration of efforts to educate the public concerning the hopes and aspirations of the blind is emphasized.

It should be noted White Cane Law, also extends to all persons with a Guide or Service Dog as well. Please respect the White Cane Law and what it means. Don’t be a jerk!

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  • Orientation and Mobility: Anatomy of a Stoplight


    I really did want to come up with a wittier name for this post, but it is what it is… And today’s lesson was all about intersections controlled with stoplights.

    We where at the same area we use last time, and made our way to the intersection I had stopped at before. Elain explained to me that there are two different types of stoplights. One is called a Variable Timed, and the other Fixed Time. You can guess by their names, it’s really simple.

    Traffic LightA variable timed intersection is controlled by a stoplight with an embedded pressure plate or wiring that a car rolls over to control the amount of time the light will stay green on the next cycle. – You can usually see the wires or plate in the roadway. A fixed time intersection has a set interval of red to green cycles that will not change… Simple.

    Did you know most traffic lights and cross walk lights timing are based on the fact humans walk about 5-feet-per-second? The wider the street, technically the longer the light will stay green, or walk light will stay on. Did you know that on a variable timed intersection, most lights will add about 3-seconds to the light cycle for each car in the line, most times with a maximum up to three cars deep? (That’s about 9 or 10-seconds.)

    Man, it turns out mobility instructors really know their stuff!

    So any way… We approached and surveyed the intersection. We determined it was a variable timed intersection; the main street cycle was about 30-seconds, and the side street was about 15-seconds. We noted stoplight pedestrian buttons and we talked about there use. Remember to use them when cars are rolling, so they interrupt the cycle; but remember, some may not work, (in our case one was broken).

    The button facing into you is used to control that light crossing the street that you are facing, the button should never be behind you, if so, it’s likely not for that street.

    We hit the button, lined up, and waited for the light to change. Here it comes, lights green, check left, center, right, all clear, and go! Always noting the danger point and crossing traffic, many intersections, it’s the middle of the cross walk where you could have cars turn in front of you, particularly if a stopped car is to your left.

    Not bad, we made it… and now… we do it again! We continued this way making circles around the intersection when it was the proper time to cross; it must have looked funny, because we looped the intersection clockwise about a half-dozen times.

    We talked about the dangerous turn-on-red that so many drivers like to do, even though some (a lot) like to ignore the no-turn-on-red signs. She reminded me that pedestrians still have the right-of-way at crossings, and if a car is at a stop, it’s unlikely they will turn on you. – But I still take little comfort in that. This is part of the huge anxiety of street crossings that gets to me. But the only way to get over this fear is to do more street crossings.

    So drivers, please put down your cell phone, stop putting on your makeup, don’t pass stopped cars and pay more attention at intersections. Pedestrians have the right-of-way at cross walks, and persons with a white cane or service dog have even more! If you’d just pay attention, the road would be much safer for all of us!

    If you blow your horn at me, and flip me the finger… I’m likely to cane your car, you ungrateful 4-wheeled little bastard. – Road rage, blind man style! – I didn’t say that, I deny everything! I didn’t see your car, I swear!

    Next week Elaine says we’re going to play in more traffic, and a little busier intersection. Oh the joy! In all I’d have to say I’m still a 3 out of 5 for busy intersections. But a strong 4 out of 5 for lesser intersections.

    Lets see what next week brings!

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    Orientation and Mobility: Stop, Listen, Look


    Intersection SignIn this lesson, Elaine took me to an outer part of town, but it happened to be right near our local Middle School, so I did know the location…

    The objective was simple, to walk up, down, and around the block, stopping for all open areas (that includes driveways); listening, for cars and the direction of traffic, as of yet still waiting for “All Quiet“; and finally look to make sure all is clear before you cross a driveway or street… and as always, using perfect cane technique.

    I made my way to the first street, surveying the location, noting the street name, the flow of traffic, and how the intersection was controlled… listened for “All Quiet” and made my way across… It was mid day so traffic at that time was very light. We made our way down a few more blocks, doing crossings the same way, always stopping, listening for any sound, and then looking before crossing.

    This lesson was uneventful, as it was more for Elaine to observe me, and how I approached the curb, and to make sure I listened, and looked before crossing. We made a few turns, and looped back around.

    While doing so Elaine normally travels a good 20 to 30-feet behind me as to not disturb me, and so she can observe.

    As I walked down the street some people where out and about. As I approached an alley way I stop, and listen, check the curb edge with my cane as I have been told to do. While resting a moment I hear from across the street a man say “It’s OK, your fine it’s clear…” as I did then step off and cross the alley, I then hear “Watch your step…” of course I did politely ignore him.

    White Cane ManI made my way down the street, and I over hear him and a lady say “Leave the man alone, he knows what he’s doing“… and a fleeting comment of “Them blind people sure amaze me, I don’t know how they do it…” – Well I have to say at least some one noticed my white cane! In all my years, I have never had some one attempt to assist me in crossing a street. It was a little embarrassing, but made me feel good, some one attempted to help.

    As a note to my fellow sighted reader, I would like to remind you that most blind or low vision people who travel need little help, and if we do, we will ask. We know what we’re doing that’s why we have people like Elaine to train us!

    You should not shout or startle a blind or low vision person; chances are they are concentrating on the task at hand… You should not yell “It’s OK to cross“, I will cross when I am ready… If I am going to cross a street, chances are I am at the curb, with my cane in front of me, waiting to step off. If I am not going to cross, I will likely pull my cane tight to my body, and be back away from the curb. – Please do not be offended if I tell you I don’t need your help.

    In the next lesson, Elaine says we’re going to start working on crossing streets where traffic is a little more heavy, and you can’t always wait for “All Quiet“…

    As always, feel free to leave your comments!

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