When we meet someone walking with a blind cane, we often think of her condition as a disability. However, do we ever consider the independence with which she travels along the sidewalk? October 15 is Blind Americans Equality Day, formally known as White Cane Safety Day. It took more than 40 years for this welcomed change to come about.
Equality is the word that matters in this update. It acknowledges what the blind and vision impaired have always known. Though we may deal with our disabilities in different ways, independence is something in which we all hold dear. Regardless of our individual situations, we are all the same.
Helen Keller proved this when she became the first blind and deaf woman to graduate from an American college. She became a highly respected political analyst and was one of our original feminists.
Most of us are familiar with Harriet Tubman’s boldly courageous work establishing the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Her later years were dedicated to women’s suffrage. She accomplished all this in spite of a severe visual impairment.
The list of blind Americans who left an important mark on our country is long and their accomplishments are rightfully noted in our history books. However, this day belongs to those who, in spite of their disabilities, make the same contributions that we do.
The blind and visually impaired raise families, work in offices and hold government positions. They stand shoulder to shoulder with those of us who enjoy the gift of sight, and they do so with determination.
October 15 is a tribute to their contributions and recognition of their self-reliance. Blind Americans Equality Day is not about awareness, it is about validation.
The blind cane is a tool that helps the visually impaired make their way through everyday life. It is also a symbol of the independence that we all need and cherish.