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View our calendar to see when the next Damascus White Cane Days will be held – usually in April and September.
History of the 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 the United States, the introduction of the White Cane is attributed to Lion George A. Bonham (Peoria Lions Club). In 1930, he observed a man who was blind attempting to cross the street with a black cane that was barely visible to motorists against the dark pavement. The Lion offered to paint the cane white to make it more visible. By 1931, the Peoria Lions Club approved the project and white canes were made and distributed. The Peoria City Council adopted an ordinance giving the bearers the right-of-way to cross the street. The news of the club’s activity spread to other Lions Clubs, and the white cane became known by the blind and sighted alike as a means of identifying the safe mobility needs of the visually impaired. In 1931, Lions Clubs International began a program promoting the use of White Canes for people who are blind.
Also in 1931, in France, Guilly d’Herbemont recognized the danger of blind people in traffic and launched a national “white stick movement” for blind people. She donated 5,000 white canes to people in Paris.
While the White Cane is commonly accepted as a “symbol of blindness”, various countries have different rules concerning what constitutes a “cane for the blind.” In the United Kingdom, for example, the White Cane is recognized as being used by visually impaired persons; if the cane has two red bands added, it indicates that the user is deaf-blind. In some areas, the cane is yellow.
In the United States, laws vary from state to state, but in all cases, those carrying white canes are afforded the right of way when crossing a road and when in a public place.
(This information is from the Lions Club International Website)
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