Tuesday, November 6, 2012

International White Cane Day Celebration

SPEECH BY YAM TONG WOO, organising chairman, WHITE CANE DAY celebration at the Kota Damansara Community Forest Park, OCT 13, 2012
Selamat Pagi Yang Berhormat Ms.Elizabeth Wong(Exco Kerajaan Negri Selangor), Dr. Nasir(ADUN Kota Damansara), Mr. Anthony Thanasayan(Ahli Majlis Petaling Jaya), Mr. Jeffrey Phang(Chairman, Friends of Kota Damansara), kawan kawan yang buta dan penglihatan terhad, sukarelawan sukarelawan, ahli ahli dari media, tuan tuan dan puan puan.
Dengan ini, izinkan saya berchakap dalam Bahasa Inggeris.
Blind & Visually Impaired and young volunteers being
 briefed before entering the forest
Good morning every one. I cannot see but I am happy to hear so many voices today as we come together once again to celebrate World White Cane Day which falls on October 15th each year. This day is celebrated all over the globe with activities to remind the sighted community that the white cane is synonymous with Blind and visually impaired people, in short BVIs, and promote their safety needs and celebrate their independence that can be achieved in spite of little or no vision.
Today, we are celebrating White Cane Day with a walk into the Kota Damansara Community Forest. This is the first time that many of us BVIs are tracking into this forest. It is definitely my first since I became blind 5 years ago. The walk give us the opportunity to be close to and enjoy mother-nature through touch, feel, smell and hear.
I would like to thank the Forestry Department who, so kindly, stationed their officers at strategic locations within the forest and patiently described the different species of trees, etc to the BVIs. I also would like to thank the Friends of Kota Damansara (FoKD) for being the location hosts today. We are also grateful that FoKD had the disabled community in mind as far back as 2007 when they build the ramps, the walkways, the canopy and even the toilet infrastructure. We are counting on you to implement your vision to create the first open access forest for all and we hope that MBPJ , forestry and the Selangor State government will extend the full cooperation to ensure that by the next celebration of World White Cane Day we will have tactile surface indicators, disabled friendly toilets with running water, and longer stretch of accessible walkways that will enable us to independently explore more of the forest.
I am also glad to know that many volunteers are here today to join in the celebration by walking alongside and learning how to guide the BVIs as they track through the forest. I hope all of you had a good time, especially the first timer volunteers. I am sure you will take home invaluable lessons on how the BVIs, given the opportunity, will try to live a life as independently as possible like everyone else with the help of the White Cane.
Let me share with you what the White Cane mean to me. I lost my sight 5 years ago, literally overnight. Walking without sight can be traumatic and a painful experience. My first present from a concerned friend was the White Cane. Since then I have never left home without it. It has become part of my life acting as my `eyes’. It gives me the confidence to move about independently and safely walking the line – the yellow tactile walking surface indicators on the pavements.
Listening attentively to the briefing by the Forestry officer
It is sad to note that many sighted people on the streets still do not know the significance of the White Cane. We hope by celebrating the White Cane Day, it will raise the public’s awareness of what the white cane symbolizes – independence and safety for the BVIs. So when you see a person walking with a White Cane, recognize the person is blind and cannot see you, so give way if you are walking and slow down or stop if you are driving.
Before I hand over the mike, I would like to take this opportunity to thank YB Elisabeth Wong for officiating this event, MBPJ for organising, sponsoring it and deploying their staff to ensure our safety and conveniences, Forestry Department and Friends of Kota Damansara for their support, the volunteers for spending their time with us, and last but not least give ourselves a pat on the shoulder for just being here today.
Thank you.
More challenging times ahead!..

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