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"White Cane Awareness Day" in Great Falls

"White Cane Awareness Day" in Great Falls
Posted at 10:36 AM, Oct 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-16 12:58:05-04

GREAT FALLS — The Montana Association for the Blind is advocating for more awareness about how people live with blindness. They hosted the annual "White Cane Awareness Day" event in downtown Great Falls on Friday to bring people together for a walk in the fresh October air.

White Cane Awareness Day is designed to acknowledge the abilities of people who are blind and to promote equal opportunities as any other American. The Braille Institute explains:

White canes were introduced in the 1930s as a way of assisting visually impaired pedestrians to travel independently. They also helped motorists identify and yield to people using the white cane, and their use has been protected by law in the United States since that time. White Cane Safety Day, October 15, was established in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson in an effort to raise awareness of people who carry a white cane.

Dennis Ferestad lives in Geyser and has been blind for more than seven years. He says he was born with a hereditary illness but has enjoyed his time with the MAB. He says white canes are designed to help people navigate sidewalks and street edges to avoid collisions and helps with overall awareness of their surroundings.

He added that they need more awareness for the issues people with blindness or low vision can experience so people can know they are as able as people with vision. He said they couldn’t have the event last year due to Covid but added people are excited to be back out and meeting other people and help raise awareness.

“The one thing that people should know about is that just because a lot of people are blind and low vision doesn’t incapacitate them from doing a good job at anything they put their mind to,” Ferestad said.

The National Federal of the Blind website states: "When you see a blind person using a white cane, remember that the cane is our tool to safely and independently navigate the environment. There's no need to shout warnings or try to physically steer us so that our canes won't bump into things. Remember that we are using our canes to explore what is around us. If we need any help or direction, we will ask. If you are driving or cycling and see someone using a white cane, you must follow the law and stop to give that person the right of way."

For more info, you can visit the Montana Association for the Blind website.