White Cane Days
April ?? - ??, 2018
The use of a "cane" for the visually impaired dates back to biblical times when the shepherd's staff was used as an aid for solitary travel. Throughout history, there is mention of the use of a cane, staff, or stick for safe travel of the visually impaired.It was not until after World War I that the cane, as we know it today, was promoted for use by the visually impaired. This cane is the crook support cane that many of the visually impaired use today. This concept spread to Europe and then to North America.
The first White Cane Ordinance was passed in December of 1930 in Peoria, Illinois, giving blind pedestrians protection and the right-of-way while carrying a White Cane. At its 1931 Convention in Toronto, Canada Lions Club International promoted the White Cane as a protective device for the blind.
In 1935, a reporter named Jack Little of the Detroit News noticed an article on the white cane in a small Ohio newspaper. As a member of the Uptown Lions Club, he mentioned it to his fellow Lions Club members. Donald Schuur, an attorney and member of that club became active in promoting the white cane in Michigan as a visible symbol for the blind. He wrote a city ordinance for Detroit recognizing the white cane, which was passed on February 25, 1936. To promote the new ordinance, a demonstration was held at the City Hall and the visually impaired were given white canes.
The following year, Donald Schuur wrote a provision for a bill proposed in the State Legislature. The proposal gave the carrier of the white cane protection while traveling on the streets of our state. This bill was signed into law by Governor Frank Murphy in March 1937. The first White Cane proclamation by the Governor of the State of Michigan was issued that same year.
During World War II, a number of blinded veterans received rehabilitation at Valley Forge Veterans Hospital in Pennsylvania and Hines Hospital in Illinois. Dr. Richard Hoover developed the "long cane" method of cane travel. This cane was longer than the small, crook support cane and was primarily used as an aid in mobility - that is, the independent, safe travel of the blinded veteran. It was an extension of the person's arm which detected objects below the waist. Orientation and mobility instruction for use of the long cane has been formalized and is taught in rehabilitation centers and schools for the blind.
Since the passage of the first White Cane Law in 1937, several revisions have been made. One notable addition was the use of the dog guide. Another change eliminated the necessity of raising the white cane at an intersection prior to crossing. A more recent change requires instruction on White Cane Law in driver's education classes.
Following the passage of the first White Cane Law, the District Governors of the Lions of Michigan decided to develop the White Cane program on a state-wide basis. They appointed a White Cane Committee to promote the use of the white cane and educate the public about the White Cane Law. Literature was placed in schools, police departments, churches, etc. Radio stations, newspapers, ministers and school superintendents endorsed the program and cooperated with the Lions of the state. Eventually, the committee developed items for sale to clubs as fundraisers during White Cane Week. The miniature white cane has become a symbol of the efforts of Lions Clubs to increase the public's awareness of their responsibility to protect tie visually impaired.