Monday, October 17, 2011

White Cane Day Celebration at Kota Damansara Community Forest

A great day out for those who turned up yesterday for the celebration event. Learning, touching and smelling the varieties of herbal plants in the herbs garden was truly an eye-opener. Trekking up a short distance up the forest to "see," touch and feel the sheer circumference size of the Petaling tree trunk amazed all. Yes, Petaling is a species of tree, standing easily 70 feet (21metres) tall. Food was sumptuous, BBQ and variety of catering food available. A memorable day indeed. Thank you all for your contribution in making the day a very successful eventful day.

Not forgetting, the theme of the day.. White Cane Day, I am happy to share my speech delivered at the event yesterday.

`October 15th was declared White Cane Safety Day in 1964 by the late President of USA, Lyndon Johnson. Since then it has been celebrated all over the globe

Today we come together to commemorate White Cane Day. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the organizers Pet Positive and Friends of Kota Damansara and to MBPJ (Petaling Jaya City Council) for sponsoring the whole event.

1 What does White cane Day mean to me.. A day to educate everyone to respect the person walking with the White Cane, to recognize the person is blind and cannot see you, so give way if you are walking and slow down if you are driving.

The White Cane gives me the Independence in mobility, the ability to move about safely and confidently.

2. Walking without sight can be traumatic and a painful experience especially when the sighted is even more blind than me, For some strange reasons, they tend to bump and knock into me even though I walk with the White Cane. I often wondered whether these sighted people are aware of the significance of the White Cane.

a. I had an unpleasant experience of a sighted person walking right into my path, got tangled with my cane, she fell and my cane broke into two. She got up and walked off without a word of apology. Fortunately I was walking just behind my wife.

b. Another scary experience was when I was learning from my friend Mr Mano who is also blind and he is here with us today, on how to move around Brickfields area. I was struggling to follow him from behind, listening to his white cane tapping/gliding along the tactile pathways, leading us back to the MAB (Malaysian Association for the Blind) complex. All of a sudden my white cane snapped and became wobbly. I panicked and really, really struggled with my wobbly cane, trying very hard to keep paces with Mano. I heaved a sigh of relief when we reached MAB complex.

c. An amusing tale to share traveling with my white cane. When my wife was checking in at LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) enroute to London, a ground service staff came over to me and asked `Sir are you traveling to London?’. I said yes and she left. Next my wife told me someone had put a baggage tag to my white cane. When enquired about it, we were told that the tag was to allow the white cane to be stored somewhere else if it cannot get into the overhead compartment. Did they not realize that no blind person will separate from their cane and moreover white canes are foldable. An example of the ignorance of the public towards white canes.

3. Since then, I have come to recognise and appreciate the importance of the simple white cane. Do not underestimate the mighty cane and the independence it gives to the blind and the partially sighted.

4. As a member of MBPJ OKU (Persons with disability) technical committee, I am happy to be able to contribute towards making Petaling Jaya, a barrier free city with accessible facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities. Here, I must commend MBPJ for doing such a great job. For the blind, it means more guiding blocks pathways at strategic locations, etc. However, let me say this, the white cane still has its important role to play. It is without doubt an important tool that gives the blind and partially sighted the independence to move about to desired destinations safely, and now made possible with more tactile pathways in Petaling Jaya. So, now you understand why I do not leave home without my white cane.

5. However, it would compliment my white cane if I have a guide dog, too. Pet Positive is an NGO offering assisted animal therapy to both elderly and people with disabilities. Animals such as dogs, cats, fishes to name some, have proven to have therapeutic healing effects. Pet Positive hopes to introduce guide dogs to assist the blind.

More challenging times ahead!

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