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International White Cane Safety Day – 15 October

Blind Citizens NZ joins the World Blind Union and the rest of the world, in observing International White Cane Safety Day today, 15 October. White Cane Safety Day raises awareness about, and reminds everyone of the importance and purpose of the White Cane. It is a mobility tool for blind, deafblind and vision impaired people to get around the environment, safely, independently, with confidence and dignity.

Making the world a safer place for White Cane users, requires the cooperation of central and local government to ensure there is legislation to protect White Cane users wherever they may be in our environment. City streets need pedestrian footpaths dedicated for use by pedestrians including blind people, and not forced to share them with e-scooters, bicycles, cars and other vehicles. There must be policies, laws and proper infrastructure to ensure the independent and safe travel of blind, deafblind and vision impaired people in their local communities, educational institutions, work environments, and at public events. This is consistent with Article 9 Accessibility, of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires Government to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers, and ensure that persons with disabilities can access the environment, transport, and public facilities.

A White Cane user, Jonathan Godfrey, National President of the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand (Blind Citizens NZ) said “today is our opportunity to remind everyone about the importance of the White Cane and what it means for us. I rely on my skills with a white cane to have a full and active life. I have a cane for getting to work, a cane to use in the classroom when I get there, and there’s always a spare one somewhere close if it gets damaged. They’re all white and they all show the world I’m blind; they differ in style to suit my immediate needs.

In celebrating White Cane Safety Day, we take this opportunity to acknowledge Government’s Accessibility Charter, which requires government agencies to provide accessible information and services. We acknowledge commitments made in conjunction with the soon to be launched Disability Action Plan 2019-2022. However, there is much more that must be done, and so, Blind Citizens NZ calls upon central and local government to establish and implement standards that will ensure universal access for all persons with disabilities. We urge society to recognise the rights of blind, deafblind and vision impaired people, and in conjunction with International White Cane Safety Day, to remove obstacles such as low hanging branches, obstacles on footpaths, and cars parked on or across footpaths (especially in driveways or entrances to buildings).

About Blind Citizens NZ: Founded in 1945, the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand Inc is a disabled people’s organisation (DPO), with branches and networks across the country. We are New Zealand's leading blindness consumer organisation and one of the country's largest organisations of disabled consumers. Our members are blind, vision impaired or deafblind. We exist to give voice to the aspirations and lived experiences of blind, deafblind and vision-impaired New Zealanders. We aim to achieve this by heightening awareness of our rights and to remove the barriers that negate our ability to live in an accessible, equitable and inclusive society.

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