To inform the public about 'White Cane Safety Day' -- the Department of Labor's Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired has released some common sense suggestions to keep in mind when encountering a person wielding a white cane.

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These suggestions can help drivers take reasonable safety precautions when they see someone wielding a white cane:

  • Don't stop your car more than 5 feet from the crosswalk line (further distance only confuses visually impaired pedestrians and makes it harder for them to hear your car).
  • Don't yell out, "It's okay to cross." (You may not be aware of all the factors required to safely cross.)
  • Don't wait a long time for blind pedestrians to cross. If it appears they are not ready to cross, "creep" slowly forward through the crossing. If the cane traveler pulls in the cane or steps back, that is a sign to the motorist that it is okay to go.
  • Do make full stops at stop signs.
  • Do stop completely and look for pedestrians before attempting to turn right on red.
  • Do stop for all pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • Don't stop your car in the middle of the crosswalk.
  • Don't block the sidewalk at driveways.
  • Don't honk.

Maine's white cane law states "failure to yield the right of way to a visually impaired pedestrian commits a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not less than $50 nor more than $1,000."

Here are a few other suggestions to keep in mind when encountering a person wielding a white cane:

  • Ask first if you think someone needs assistance.
  • When giving directions, be clear, use concrete terms (for example, left/right, approximate distances) and avoid pointing.
  • Allow space for a person with a white cane to pass, but if that is too difficult or awkward and they are heading for you, speak up and let them know you are there.

The Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, part of the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, provides comprehensive services for visually impaired and blind individuals of all ages. The division provides help to people with vision problems that prevent them from carrying out the activities of daily living, including attending school and getting a job. Services include vocational assessment, orientation and mobility instruction to develop independent travel skills, and employment support services to enable job success.

Individuals or family members interested in more information about services should call the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services at (207) 623-6799 (TTY users please use Maine Relay 711) or visit their website at http://www.maine.gov/rehab/dbvi/index.shtml

The American Council of the Blind and The Iris Network will hold White Cane Walks throughout the state of Maine on October 19th...