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CWAB hosts White Cane Day event

Oct. 14, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Teaching a totally blind, 71-year-old woman how to cross the street at the intersection of Madison Avenue and 14th Street West presents enough challenges on its own.

Besides rushing traffic, the east corners on both the north and south sides of the street are blended into the pavement, with no distinction between the sidewalk and road. There is also the issue of the absence of a parking lane to offer a buffer between the woman and traffic, placing her inches away from passing vehicles.

Those are several reasons that Saturday's White Cane Day event is so important for the community, said Toni I. Walls, whose job it is to guide the woman to independence while increasing public awareness of what the white cane is all about.

"Our purpose is to draw awareness to what the white cane is, for the general public to become more aware and familiar with it and to celebrate the independence of those who use it," said Walls, a certified orientation and mobility specialist and vision rehabilitation specialist with Cabell-Wayne Association of the Blind.

White Cane Safety Day was declared a national observance in 1964. Since then, it has been recognized on Oct. 15 and celebrated locally on the weekend closest to that date. Saturday's was the third annual event for CWAB, joined by the local chapter of Lions Club International, a service organization focused on sight programs and services. This year's program focused on health, with free screenings and information for the public from the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, Faith in Action, HIMG, Dial-A-Ride and St. Mary's Medical Center.

"Part of my job is to get out and teach people how to move around town, but also to educate others so when they see someone with that white cane, they're more aware," Walls said.

John Pinkerman, state secretary with the Lions of West Virginia, credited CWAB for the job it does with the less sighted in the community. Lions Club International began its own work with the visually impaired just eight years into the organization's existence in 1925.

"We went eight years without a particular project until Helen Keller went to our convention in 1925. That's when we got started in the field of sight, and now you see Lions all around the world making sure children have glasses and that people who have glaucoma or cataracts get the services they need," Pinkerman said. "Each club all does individual things, but we all concentrate on sight. Participating in White Cane Day gives us an opportunity to help out, to support when needed. It's very informing and really makes you realize what the less sighted endure."

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