The North Eastern Association of the Visually Impaired (NEAVI) will observe White Cane Day in Nkurenkuru, the capital of Kavango West Region, today.
This day is devoted to celebrating independence and opportunities for persons that are visually impaired.
Globally, the day is commemorated on October 15 but will be marked today at the Nkurenkuru Community Hall, under the theme, “Inclusivity, Opportunity and Prosperity for Visually Impaired People.”
White Cane Day was first observed in 1964 after a proclamation by the American president. The first White Cane Safety Day served as a safety reminder to promote courtesy and special consideration to people who are visually impaired.
“Since this first observation, White Cane Day has taken on greater meaning as a time to celebrate the independence of persons who are visually impaired and their right to participate fully in society,” said Daniel Siremo, the Kavango West and East rehabilitation officer from the office of disabilities affairs.
Siremo said the day is not only an effective mobility tool for independent navigation, but also a powerful symbol of independence.
Awareness events are held annually across the country and each year the national celebration is held in a different region.
The Namibian Federation of the Visually Impaired (NFVI) began hosting its annual White Cane Awareness Day for Independence in 1995.
White Cane Awareness Day provides an opportunity for NFVI members and the community at large to come together to celebrate the independence gained by those who use white canes and guide dogs.
“The event is especially helpful for informing the public of the abilities of visually impaired persons and to increase awareness for their need for independence and self-determination,” Siremo said.
The white cane is the universal symbol for blindness or visual impairment. “It is a common misconception that the white cane is only used by those who are totally blind. However, the white cane is also used by individuals who may have limited or low vision. Every day, many Namibians who are visually impaired use a white cane to get to work, school, shop and travel,” he said.
Some white canes are long, and help give persons who are visually impaired information about the environment they are travelling or walking through, and can help them find obstacles that may be in their way; or warn them when they are approaching changes in surfaces, or risks. Other white canes are short, and serve as a signal to others that the cane user is visually impaired.
“It is most unfortunate that there are still many persons with visual impairments who face discrimination. Many are still being hidden by their families and denied access to education or rehabilitation services,” said Siremo.