HANCOCK - The middle of October holds significance to people for a variety of reasons, whether it be the changing of seasons or heading south for the winter.
However, for the blind and visually impaired, the middle of October - Oct. 15 in particular - holds a different meaning. Forty-seven years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the designation of White Cane Safety Day for Oct. 15, a recognition of the growing independence for the blind and visually impaired.
Kris Colombe, vision consultant/orientation and mobility specialist for the Copper Country Intermediate School District, works with students who depend on white canes for their mobility. With Saturday being such a special day for many, she wanted to let people know about the significance of the white cane.
"The fact that they have this holiday that's promoted, it's a sign that people should have special consideration for the blind as we see them crossing streets in their independent mobility," Colombe said. "I just wanted to make people more aware that when someone is carrying a white cane, it is a sign to motorists and travelers to exercise special care and allow them the right of way."
L'Anse High School sophomore Laura Webb is one of the students for whom White Cane Safety Day holds significance. Although she just found out about the holiday last year, she is happy there is a day like this to add to public knowledge.
"It's good that people are raising awareness about it and have a day to learn about it," Webb said.
Webb, who lives in Covington, believes the day can also correct some misconceptions people have.
"I think that most people think only fully blind people use a cane," said Webb, one of the many who use a white cane but who are not fully blind. "It is also used by the visually impaired."
Although being visually impaired poses challenges for Webb, she said living in a smaller community has helped immensely. The fact that L'Anse High School is not a large school has aided her in knowing exactly where she needs to go on a day-to-day basis.
"It's really nice to have a smaller school," Webb said.
So as Colombe works to raise awareness locally, much of the United States will join her this weekend in a nationwide effort to spread the word about the significance of the white cane. In 2010, as part of his presidential proclamation recognizing Oct. 15 as White Cane Safety Day, President Barack Obama stated, "Blindness and visual impairments are not impediments to obtaining knowledge, and we must highlight the availability of existing tools to facilitate communication and work to improve access to them."
Webb and other students like her are certainly proving him right.
For more information on White Cane Safety Day, visit nfb.org/nfb/White_Cane_Safety_Day.asp.