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Information & Caregiver Resource Corner

Be a friendly driver to pedestrians who are legally blind

October is White Cane Awareness Month

White Cane imageMonday, October 15, 2018, is White Cane Safety Day.President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized the first White Cane Safety Day in 1964 to raise awareness for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to use special care for people who are blind and carry a white cane.

Q: What is a white cane, and what should I know if I see a person using one?

A: According to the Braille Institute, “the white cane is a tool of independence for many people who are blind or severely visually impaired. It affords people who are legally blind the opportunity to travel safely and efficiently in the community.”

October 15, 2018, is White Cane Safety Day. All states and many other countries have White Cane laws, which allow pedestrians who are legally blind the right of way at street crossings.

Motorists can follow these guidelines to support white cane safety:
  • Don’t stop your car less than than five feet from the crosswalk line.
  • Don’t yell out, “It’s OK to cross.”
  • Don’t get impatient when waiting for a 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.
  • Don’t consider a “rolling” stop as a complete stop.
  • 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.
  • Don’t fail to stop for pedestrians at all crosswalks whether or not there is a traffic signal or stop sign.
  • Don’t stop your car in the middle of the crosswalk.
  • Don’t pass another car, stopped, waiting for pedestrians to cross the street.
  • 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 may not be able to  see you.
  • Don’t honk!

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.

Learn more on the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind website or from the Braille Institute.