By: Lailuma Noori
15th of October coinciding with 23rd of Mizan, the lunar calendar, is marked as World White Cane Day every year around the world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Council for the Welfare of the Blind (WCWB) in a joint meeting in 1950 reviewed and approved the law on White Cane and declared 15 October as World While Cane Day.
The World Council for the Welfare of the Blind (WCWB) was an organization of agencies for the blind (visually impaired) established in 1949. It combined with the International Federation of the Blind in 1984 to create the World Blind Union.
The day, as an international awareness raising event, celebrates the importance of the white cane and promotes a safe environment for long cane users. The date is also set aside to celebrate the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired and the important symbol of blindness and tool of independence, the white cane.
It is also a time to celebrate the abilities and successes achieved by people with visual impairments in a sighted world and to honor the many contributions being made by the blind and visually impaired. In addition, White Cane Day provides an opportunity to demonstrate to the world some of the ways in which individuals who are blind or visually impaired live and work independently, while giving back to their communities.
For blind people, the white cane is an essential tool that gives us the ability to achieve a full and independent life. It allows us to move freely and safely from place to place—whether it’s at work, at school, or around our neighborhoods.
Based on official statistics 2019 provided by World Health Organization (WHO), Globally, it is estimated that at least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment or blindness, of whom at least 1 billion have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed.
This 1 billion people includes those with moderate or severe distance vision impairment or blindness due to unaddressed refractive error (123.7 million), cataract (65.2 million), glaucoma (6.9 million), corneal opacities (4.2 million), diabetic retinopathy (3 million), and trachoma (2 million), as well as near vision impairment caused by unaddressed presbyopia (826 million).
In terms of regional differences, the prevalence of distance vision impairment in low- and middle-income regions is estimated to be four times higher than in high-income regions (1). With regards to near vision, rates of unaddressed near vision impairment are estimated to be greater than 80% in western, eastern and central sub-Saharan Africa, while comparative rates in high-income regions of North America, Australasia, Western Europe, and of Asia-Pacific are reported to be lower than 10%. Population growth and ageing will increase the risk that more people acquire vision impairment. In Afghanistan, there are currently 450,000 blind people, while 1.5 million people with moderate vision impairment and the number is increasing due to various causes as continued war, economic poverty, air pollution and low access of people in particular women to health centers according to WHO statistics. It is worth mentioning that white cane is the independent symbol of a person with vision impairment and the World White Safety Cane is not the day pity, but it is the day to recognize the independence and rights of blinds.