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October is White Cane Awareness Month

Woman with a vision impairmentWhat is the white cane?

The white cane – which allows individuals who are legally blind to travel independently – is a symbol of independence. In 1931, the Lions Club began promoting the use of white canes for people who are blind as a national identification program.

What is White Cane Safety Day?

White Cane Safety Day is October 15. All states and many other countries have White Cane laws, which allow pedestrians, who are legally blind, the right of way at street crossings.

How can I support a person who is legally blind?

Most people who are legally blind have some usable vision. When in doubt, ask if the person needs assistance. Do not grab the person, cane, or dog guide! Do not pet a dog guide. Most dog guides are working and should not be petted since it can be distracting for the dog.

Massachusetts White Cane Law states that all motorists, when they see a pedestrian who uses a dog guide or a white cane at a street crossing, must come to a complete stop.

Motorists can follow these guidelines to support white cane safety:

  1. Don’t stop your car more than five feet from the crosswalk line.
  2. Don’t yell out, “It’s OK to cross.”
  3. Don’t get impatient when waiting for pedestrian who is visually impaired to cross. If the pedestrian places the long cane into the street, it usually indicates he or she will begin a street crossing. If the cane traveler takes a step back and pulls back the cane from the curb, it usually indicates the person will not be crossing at that time.
  4. Don’t consider a “rolling” stop as a complete stop.
  5. Don’t turn right on red without coming to a full stop and looking for pedestrians. The Right on Red Law requires drivers to come to a complete stop prior to making right turns.
  6. Don’t fail to stop for pedestrians at all crosswalks whether or not there is a traffic signal or stop sign.
  7. Don’t stop your car in the middle of the crosswalk.
  8. Don’t pass another car, stopped, waiting for pedestrians to cross the street.
  9. Don’t wave to pedestrians who are using a white cane or dog guide to indicate that you are waiting for them to cross. They CANNOT see you.
  10. Don’t honk!

More information

Learn more on the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind website at www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/mcb.