By Faranak Bakhtiari

White cane: symbol of social life of the blind

October 15, 2021 - 17:44

TEHRAN – White cane is a symbol that shows the index of the social life of visually impaired citizens and contributes to the independence of the blind.

Globally, at least 1 billion people have near or distance vision impairment that could be prevented or has yet to be addressed. Vision impairment affects people of all ages, with the majority being over the age of 50. Vision impairment and blindness can have major and long-lasting effects on all aspects of life, including daily personal activities, interacting with the community, school and work opportunities, and the ability to access public services.

World Sight Day is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on vision impairment, including blindness. This year, World Sight Day will take place on October 14 with the theme of “Love Your Eyes”.

In Iran, October 16 is called White Cane Day.

Globally, at least 1 billion people have near or distance vision impairment that could be prevented. In 1921 James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol who became blind after an accident and was uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible.

On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution of the Congress, HR 753, was signed into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as "White Cane Safety Day".

In this law, all the social rights of the blind as a member of civilized society are reflected.

Blind people have the right to enjoy all the usual amenities in society. They must be able to use sidewalks, streets, highways, and public transportation such as airplanes, trains, buses, cars, ships, hotels, public places, and leisure and religious centers.

Drivers of vehicles are obliged to take full care of the blind who walk the streets with white canes. The government has a duty to encourage the blind to participate in government affairs.

The white cane symbol makes all people, officials, and governments aware of their duty to this group of citizens so that we must rise up to provide their social and individual rights to make their life dynamic.

In the Law on the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of Iran, the welfare organization is responsible for providing most of the services required by the blind and visually impaired in the fields of education, rehabilitation, welfare, and social support.

Providing educational and rehabilitation services, living and educational grants, nursing and assistance, empowerment programs in the form of educational, artistic, and sports activities, and vocational training and facilitating the employment process of blind and visually impaired people is only part of the services.

Braille, a system for use in languages worldwide

Louis Braille was a French educator and inventor of a reading and writing system for use by people who are visually impaired. His system is known worldwide simply as braille.

Braille was blinded at the age of three in one eye as a result of an accident with a stitching awl in his father's harness-making shop. Consequently, an infection set in and spread to both eyes, resulting in total blindness.

At that time there were not many resources in place for the blind but nevertheless, he excelled in his education and received a scholarship to France's Royal Institute for Blind Youth. While still a student there, he began developing a system of tactile code that could allow blind people to read and write quickly and efficiently.

Inspired by the system invented by Charles Barbier, Braille constructed a new method that was more compact and lent itself to a range of uses, including music. He presented his work to his peers for the first time in 1824.

In adulthood, Louis Braille served as a professor at the Institute and had an avocation as a musician, but he largely spent the remainder of his life refining and extending his system. It went unused by most educators for many years after his death, but posterity has recognized braille as a revolutionary invention, and it has been adapted for use in languages worldwide.

Blindness is not a failure

Abu Abd Allah Ja'far ibn Muhammad Rudak, better known as Rudaki, was a Persian poet regarded as the first great literary genius of the Modern Persian language.

Born in 859 in Rudak (Khorasan), Rudaki is one of the people who have proved in practice that blindness is not a failure and the end of life. He composed poems in the modern Persian alphabet and is considered a founder of classical Persian literature. As it seems, Rudaki was the first person to combine different roles that were yet distinguishable entitles in the 9th-century royal court: musician, poet, and declaimer/reciter, and copyist.

Social rights of the blind must be guaranteed

Due to their special circumstances, the blind community should have better and more access to individual and social rights than other citizens.

The rights of this group in receiving urban and social services, employment, education, and all aspects of life must go beyond the principle of competition and equalization of opportunities and elimination of normal discrimination because they have special conditions.

Accessible urban infrastructure, free public transportation, and employment are the main demands of the blind to participate in society and get out of isolation.

The blind is looking for a normal life with new technologies, and with 25,000 blind and partially sighted people living in the country, the government should take measures for full employment of this group.

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