NDSU students gather to support the sight-impaired community
National White Cane Awareness Day was celebrated on Oct. 15 outside the Memorial Union. Allan Peterson, a well-known blind citizen of Fargo, spoke at the event to acknowledge the special day and talk about its purpose.
White Cane Day is a joint resolution passed by congress in 1964 to annually claim Oct. 15 as a day to recognize the blind population, Peterson said. Both North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney issued a proclamation that was read at the event.
“White Cane Safety Day is an important reminder to our motoring public that North Dakota traffic statutes require drivers of motor vehicles to yield the right of way of utilizing visible white cane or a dog guide,” the proclamations read.
Using a white cane or guide dog are methods for sight-impaired citizens to travel safely. “We rely on touch. The cane is an extension of our arm,” Peterson said. “We use our knowledge of how to use it and create familiarity of our surroundings. It makes sure we are safe when we travel.” The cane shows drivers when someone crossing is blind and pledges the right of way, also a North Dakota law.
Peterson, the development director for the North Dakota Association of the Blind, advocates independence for the sight-impaired community. “We are blind. We can do a lot of things, even though we don’t have sight.”
Peterson capitalized on coming generations in an interview. “You [students] are our future leaders, and we want to create awareness that the white cane is not only a symbol to those who are blind,” he said. “It is a mobility aid that grants people a lot of independence.”
Technology has granted sight-impaired more accessibility when it comes to daily tasks. When asked how people can support the blind community, Peterson said, “rather than to assume what a blind person needs, it is far better to ask what they need help with.”
The event carried on with a motivational walk down University Drive and 12th Ave. The participating students walked alongside Peterson and his wife while holding signs in support of the white cane.
Peterson studied at NDSU in veterinarian sciences and now holds an office at the campus library.
ND Association of the Blind is a state-wide organization where Peterson leads fundraising. They encourage donations to help fulfill the lives of those who are sight disabled. They host several programs and offer scholarships. The organization also holds summer camps and creates newsletters that publish quarterly.
The ND Association of the Blind and the NDSU Lions Club hosted the event.
For more information and to support the blind community, check out https://ndab.org/