On October 6, 1964 Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day, also known as Blind Americans Equality Day. Today, there is a variant of the White Cane Law on the statute books of every state in the country.
The law encourages the year-round independence of people in the blind and visually impaired community, creating a sense of empowerment and improving public safety. Thousands of blind and visually impaired individuals around the state of Wisconsin use a white cane for mobility and safe travel. However, there is misinformation about what the White Cane Law is and how well it is enforced.
Wisconsin’s White Cane Law Statute N. 346.26(1) states: “An operator of a vehicle shall stop the vehicle before approaching closer than 10 feet to a pedestrian who is carrying a cane or walking stick which is white in color or white trimmed with red and which is held in an extended or raised position or who is using a dog guide and shall take such precautions as may be necessary to avoid accident or injury to the pedestrian.” The penalty for violating the law is between $25 and $200 for the first offense and between $50 and $500 for the 2nd violation.
On Tuesday, September 5, 2017, multiple news sources throughout the state reported that a 57-year-old Madison man who is blind, and his service dog, were struck by a vehicle in a hit and run car accident. While the man only had minor injuries, his service dog was immediately taken to a veterinarian for medical attention. In light of this incident, the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired wishes to remind both drivers and pedestrians of Wisconsin's White Cane Law. According to a 1999 study conducted by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, if a person is hit by a vehicle going 40 miles per hour, the pedestrian has a 95 percent fatality rate.
“For everyone’s safety and well-being, please yield the right-of-way to a person showing a white cane or walking with a dog guide,” says Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired CEO/Executive Director Denise Jess. ”The white cane or a service animal are the best tools for signaling drivers, bicyclists and other pedestrians, that those of us who are blind or visually impaired cannot see your approach.”
The Council provides one free white cane every two years to individuals who qualify. To learn more, read about our White Cane policy or call 1-800-783-5213.
Want to learn more about how to promote White Cane Day in your community? Download the Council’s White Cane Safety Day Toolkit.