Keep your “Eyes Up” for International White Cane Day

Community urged to keep “Eyes Up” for International White Cane Day

International White Cane Day Infographic featuring key statistics from a recent client survey

Constant use of mobile devices is now part of everyday life, but alarming new statistics have revealed it’s a danger that impacts many Australians who are blind or vision impaired every time they leave the house.

A recent survey conducted by Guide Dogs Australia and VisAbility revealed almost half of all people who use a white cane were bumped into at least once every time they are out, with almost 60% of cane users reporting the incidences were caused by people engrossed in their mobile devices.

Worryingly, almost half of all cane users had also been knocked over, injured or had their cane broken by someone walking into them in the last two years.

The organisations are launching the “Eyes Up” campaign ahead of International White Cane Day on 15 October, calling on members of the community to look up from their mobile devices when they’re walking to help those who are blind or vision impaired stay safe.

VisAbility Tasmania General Manager, Mary Langdon, said something very commonplace can pose an everyday danger for people who are blind or vision impaired.

“A cane is an important mobility device that supports independence and participation. It could mean the difference between people being isolated, not accessing their school, employment, shopping or participating in their chosen social activities. VisAbility have specialised Orientation and Mobility Instructors who train individuals with the use of the white cane and other assistive devices.”

“The Eyes Up Campaign is a great way to promote being aware of your surroundings when in the community. It is easy to bump into people and if that person has a cane it can cause not only a broken cane but, loss of confidence for the cane user,” Ms Langdon said.

“To help support those in the community with a vision impairment, be aware of your surroundings and Keep Your Eyes Up!”

James Newton is one person who has been affected by this.

“We are dependent on people in the environment for people to move around us. When they are texting they don’t see us,” says the 41 year old white cane user from Launceston.

“From my own personal experience I find that about 1 in 3 pedestrians now use their mobile phones while walking along footpaths in the CBD, and as a result walk more slowly, change directions more frequently and are less likely to acknowledge you by moving when you are coming toward them,” Mr Newton said.

“This exposes me to far greater risk of physical collision.”

Mr Newton has had his cane broken on more than one occasion by someone crashing into him.

“The cane alerts others to be mindful you can’t see them. The problem when someone is using a mobile phone is they don’t see the cane. When someone is approaching you and they are on the phone, you don’t know they are there and you can’t anticipate a collision. When you speak to them they are still not aware,” he said.

“Most people are generally apologetic and embarrassed when it happens but it would be better if it didn’t happen at all.”

Taking small actions while using your mobile device can make a big difference to help reduce the danger to those who are blind or vision impaired. This International White Cane Day we all have a role to play in helping to make sure people who are blind or vision impaired can get around their communities safely and confidently, just like everyone else. Remember on 15 October, wait until you reach your destination to check your mobile device, or use more caution by slowing your pace and looking up often if you have to use your device while walking.

Many of us have become accustomed to using our mobile devices constantly, but it’s something we can easily be more mindful of to help ensure all Australians are able to feel safe and independent.

To find out more about the services offered by VisAbility Tasmania or how you can show your support, visit visability.com.au

 

Banner for International White Cane Day 2017 - reads Eyes Up and has a picture of someone walking with a cane