If you are driving and see a person crossing the street or parking lot using a white cane, what do you do? Are you aware of the law that protects these individuals?
The White Cane Traffic Law was established in 1947 to enforce traffic practices that protect pedestrians who make use of the white cane to travel safely and independently.
Wisconsin Statute 346.26 requires that when a driver approaches a pedestrian utilizing an all-white or red-trimmed white cane or a dog guide, the driver must stop before approaching 10 feet of the pedestrian. This practice ensures that the person who is blind or visually impaired has enough clearance to safely travel in close proximity to traffic without being at risk of injury. This law eliminates the obstacle of travel risks while navigating traffic for people with visual impairments or blindness and increases their confidence for independent travel within the community.
The National Federation of the Blind reported in 2016 that there are more than 110,000 people with visual impairments or blindness in Wisconsin. People who are visually impaired or blind in our local community are traveling to work, school, running errands and enjoying recreational activities in the Kenosha area daily. So there are many people traveling our community who deserve the right to travel safely through their neighborhoods, shopping areas and campuses.
The NFB was instrumental in advocating to the U.S. Congress the importance of safe travel while using white canes. A day was established for the purpose of recognizing and educating the significance of this mobility tool.
Since Oct. 15, 1964, White Cane Awareness Day has been recognized by the United States. In tandem with laws intended to create safety for Americans with blindness or visual impairments, traffic laws were developed to require drivers to be attentive to pedestrians who travel using white canes. Oct. 15 reminds us to advocate and educate drivers on this important traffic law regarding users of white canes.
On behalf of Society’s Assets, I will be organizing a White Cane Awareness event in the Kenosha community on Oct. 15. To inform drivers in the community, I will collaborate with people who have low vision or blindness to use their white canes while traveling crosswalks throughout the city to increase driver awareness. The participants will also spread information about the White Cane Traffic Law using signage and handouts.
Please watch the Kenosha News and our Facebook page (societysassetswi) or website (www.societysassets.org) for event updates. Contact me for more information or to participate in this event.
If you are seeking more information on obtaining a white cane, resources are available through Society’s Assets. We are the “go to” local resource for disability-related services, including in-home care, home modifications and accessibility solutions. Call 800-378-9128 if you need support.
Tami Frentzel is an independent living services coordinator at Society’s Assets.