OSWEGO – The Oswego County Legislature recognized White Cane Safety Day on Saturday, October 15 to promote awareness, education and advocacy for white cane safety.
“Vision Network of Oswego County is a staunch advocate for our residents who are blind or have vision loss,” said Oswego County Legislature Chairman Barry D. Leemann, District 4. “They provide valuable advocacy for these individuals who are dealing with safety, mobility and independence issues and we’re happy to offer this recognition in honor of their hard work and dedication.”
The presentation was made to members of the Vision Network which included Sabine Ingerson, director of the Oswego ARISE and chairperson of the Vision Network; along with Bea Welch, member of the Vision Network; Gladys Little, member of the Oswego County Visually Impaired Group; Betsy Copps, director of information and compliance for Oswego County Opportunities, Inc.; and Ken Skillen, advocate at the Oswego ARISE.
“Through this recognition, we want to raise awareness about many issues that affect individuals with a vision impairment which requires them to carry a white cane, including pedestrian safety,” said Sabine Ingerson, director of ARISE in Oswego. “Drivers are reminded to be aware of pedestrians with metallic, white and red-tipped canes as they approach intersections and cross-walks and yield the right-of-way to them.”
White Cane Safety Day was first proclaimed in 1964 by former President Lyndon B. Johnson who said, “The white cane is a staff of independence for blind people.”
The proclamation went on to say that, “The white cane in our society has become one of the symbols of a blind person’s ability to come and go on his own. Its use has promoted courtesy and special consideration to the blind on our streets and highways. To make our people more fully aware of the meaning of the white cane and of the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind persons who carry it.”
That first proclamation was the result of a coordinated effort by the National Federation of the Blind to recognize the white cane as a symbol of the growing independence and self-reliance of American citizens with vision impairments.
Today in Oswego County, the Vision Network is a partnership between ARISE and community members and agencies. As an advocacy group, they address issues such as transportation, traffic safety, public accessibility and community education.
Their achievements include securing New York State legislation providing black and white road signs that read, “New York State Law: Yield to the Blind,” advocating for a traffic light on West First and Erie Streets, and coordinating Call-N-Ride, a curb to curb transportation service for the elderly and persons with special needs in Oswego County.
The Vision Network also works with many local businesses and municipalities to assist residents with special needs, including: Oswego and Fulton area restaurants to create and promote availability and use of large print menus, the Oswego Hospital to provide advocacy, training, resources and tools, and local government to raise awareness and recognition.
“It can take time to break down pre-conceived notions and misinformation about individuals who are blind or have vision loss,” said Ingerson. “The long white cane they carry is a symbol of independence, freedom and equality.”
ARISE works with residents, communities and advocacy groups to reaffirm the dignity, independence and self-worth of people living with various levels of ability.
To learn more about ARISE services, call the Oswego office at 342-4088 or the Pulaski office at 298-5726 or go to http://www.ariseinc.org/programs/oswego_services.html.