Tuesday, October 17, 2006

National white cane safety day observed by the visually impaired

The six women made their way gingerly through the grass in Monday’s noonday sun, stopping at the edge of four wide, bustling lanes of Military Highway traffic.

Their mission: to cross from the Golden Corral at Norview Avenue to the Food Lion and back again. The hitch: They were making the walk in their personal darkness, each following the lead of a slender white cane.

“What you don’t find with your feet,” Hazel Burton said, “you feel with the cane.”

The women, all members of the Virginia Association of the Blind, were walking in celebration of National White Cane Safety Day. The goals: solidarity and raising awareness.

The white cane

Oct. 15 is White Cane Safety Day, honoring the achievements of blind and visually impaired Americans.

The white cane is both a symbol and a tool, alerting others to the fact of one’s impairment and alerting the blind to obstacles in their path.

CORRECTIONSThe original version of this story should have said that the mission of a visually impaired group was to cross from the Golden Corral at Norfolk's Norview Avenue to the Food Lion and back again - not to Farm Fresh.

As two policemen stopped traffic, Burton took the arm of sighted volunteer Nancy Gray and set her cane moving in short sweeps and staccato taps along the pavement. Next came Mildred Jackson and Barbara Davis, who each have partial sight, then Anita Burnell, who was holding the arm of Joan Bright.

They traversed the pocked asphalt and slight decline into the Food Lion parking lot. After a momentary rest, they started back to the Golden Corral.

Jackson broke into song: “We’ve come this far by faith …” she began, and Bright chimed in on harmony.

Then Gray halted. “Hold on, I found a penny!” she said. “And it’s heads up, so you’re all going to have good luck.”

Armed with that protection, they crossed safely back under the officers’ watch, walking between four lanes of idling cars, and filed into the restaurant as Jackson held the door.

“You know the last one in pays for everyone,” Gray told her.

“I can’t see, but I can run,” Jackson replied.


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