Today is World White Cane Safety Day

There are about 20 million visually challenged people in the country

 assisting the blind Every year October 15 is celebrated as World White Cane Safety Day. DH photo
“Both visually challenged men and women do not understand the dangers of unprotected sex. Most of them are ignorant about HIV/AIDS,” said P K Paul, Founder and Executive Trustee, Indian Disability League (IDL).

“We are organising a seminar on October 15 for visually challenged couples to not only make them aware of HIV/AIDS but also inform them about the importance of marriage,  companionship and emotional support base that it creates,” Paul told Deccan Herald.

Vulnerable group
Since most visually challenged persons, either married or single, spend time as a group, the possibility of unprotected sex and having multiple partners is high. Moreover, they are also the exploited lot. “Though they are often recipients of charitable acts, nobody wants to empower them,” Paul pointed out.

Though no accurate region-wise statistics is available, there are about 20 million visually challenged persons across the country, most of whom are steeped in poverty and illiteracy.

If accounts of IDL Foundation were to be correct, visually challenged persons remain a  weak link in the effort to stop spread of HIV/AIDS in the country. In this year’s World White Cane Safety Day emphasis is laid on lack of safety for visually challenged in public places.

Students at National Association for the Blind (NAB-Karnataka), who have been taught to use white cane, as part of their training, have expressed concern over lack of safety in public spaces, especially roads surrounding Jeevan Bheema Nagar, where the institution is located. “It is not the blind alone who use white canes but even some of us who have a low vision,” said Vijayakumar, a NAB student. “Most of the roads surrounding this area are unsafe, as they are dotted with manholes, pits and improperly laid footpaths. We depend on white canes to survive in these kind of harsh environment.”

“White cane has become the symbol of blind persons across the world,” said Paul. “So it is the responsibility of every citizen to help people, who use white cane.”

Historical significance
The day has been observed since 1964, following a joint resolution of the US House of Congress authorised by President Lyndon B Johnson, to proclaim October 15 as World White Cane Safety Day.

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