Fifteenth of October is celebrated every year as’ World White Cane Day’, also known as ‘White Cane Safety Day’. American president Lyndon B. Johnson marked this day for the first time in 1964, thanks to a heavyweight campaign carried out by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in the United States. Though the white Cane as a mobility tool for visually impaired persons had been in use from 1930s, it was during 1960s that the NFB launched a massive campaign to get it a distinct recognition as a symbol of freedom, independence and dignity. President Lyndon‘s formal declaration of the day was the final outcome of that advocacy.
A similar campaign around the white Cane was launched simultaneously here by NFB-India, and several like-minded organisations and individuals joined the advocacy initiative. It is now a global movement marked to celebrate the diversity in mobility practices, with due regard to the independence and dignity of those who use white Cane for their navigational needs. A visually impaired holding a white Cane with red strip at the bottom end is immediately recognised as a person in need of an accessible mobility space and accordingly offered every possible assistance on the way: vehicles stop when he crosses the road; bus drivers do their best to stop in between and pick him up when he raises the white Cane above his head, and many passers-by readily hold his hand and walk along with him. That is the recognition of white Cane today. But this recognition has been a hard-fought one, and 15th October is observed to celebrate that advocacy effort and its continued relevance.
As a seat of higher learning that takes accessibility seriously, University of Hyderabad (UoH) has been observing the World White Cane Day for some time now, as part of which awareness events on the special needs of persons with disabilities are carefully planned and conducted involving the larger campus community. The Empowered Committee for Differently Abled Persons (ECDAP) of UoH takes the lead for it. Keeping up the practice, the ECDAP currently being headed by Prof. Ramaswamy Shamanna of the School of Medical Sciences conducted a blindfold walk on the eve of the World White Cane Day this year as well. Around 100 students and research scholars gathered at the Student Amenities Centre at 10:00 AM on 15th October, 2022 and marched up to the Zakir Hussain Lecture Hall Complex. An NSS team led by Ms. Aruna and Ms. Amulya assisted the walk as volunteers. The march was fully escorted by a sizeable contingent of security personnel of UoH.
Prof. G. Nagaraju, the Dean of Student Welfare, invited as the chief guest, flagged off the blindfold walk and marched on along with the participants. Along with him was also Shri N. Annavaram – a member of the ECDAP. The walk was followed by a workshop where the participants shared their simulated experience of walk without sight. Students and research scholars from the streams of arts, communications, engineering sciences, humanities, life sciences, optometry and social sciences shared their experiences. Delivering the valedictory address, Prof. Nagaraju gave a call to all the differently abled students of the campus to come forward and showcase their inner talents. He promised that his office would be more than willing to do everything possible to promote and showcase the hidden talents among them. Touching a slightly sensitive nerve of the campus community, Prof. Nagaraju also reminded the vehicle drivers and owners of their responsibility for proper parking and cautious driving in such a way that the rights of people with special mobility needs are not curtailed. He cautioned that the University administration would not mind penalising the hostel residents found violating the rules of parking.
Speaking on behalf of the chairperson, ECDAP who made all arrangements for the event but could not be present on the day as he was required to attend an important meeting in Delhi, Shri; N. Annavaram thanked all the participants and the university administration for making the event a grand success. Mr. Venkatesh Yashwanth, a research scholar in the Department of Telugu offered a vote of thanks.