Mobility and Cane Travel

White Cane Law

39:4-37.1 Right-of-way crossing intersection for blind person, guide dog instructor.

Any blind person using as a guide a walking cane, predominantly white or metallic in color or any blind person using as a guide a seeing-eye dog or other dog trained as a guide for the blind, equipped with a rigid “U”-shaped harness such as customarily used on dog guides or any guide dog instructor engaged in instructing a guide dog shall have the right-of-way in crossing any highway or any intersection thereof, and all drivers of vehicles shall yield the right-of-way to such blind person or guide dog instructor engaged in instructing a guide dog although traffic on said highway or intersection thereof is controlled by traffic signals, anything in the motor vehicle and traffic laws of this State to the contrary notwithstanding. The failure of a blind person or guide dog instructor to comply with the provisions of this act shall not give rise to a conclusive presumption of contributory negligence by such person. The provisions of this section shall not apply where traffic is specially directed by a traffic or police officer. L.1939, c.274, s.1; amended 1946, c.208; 1971, c.81; 1999, c.264, s.2.

The preceding was referenced in

White Cane Safety Day: A Symbol of Independence

by Marc Maurer

In February of 1978 a young blind lady said, “I encounter people all of the time who bless me, extol my independence, call me brave and courageous, and thoroughly miss the boat as to what the real significance of the white cane is.”

The National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled on the 6th day of July, 1963, called upon the governors of the fifty states to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day in each of our fifty states. On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution of the Congress, HR 753, was signed into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as “White Cane Safety Day.” This resolution said: “Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives”, that the President is hereby authorized to issue annually a proclamation designating October 15 as White Cane Safety Day and calling upon the people of the United States to observe such a day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

Within hours of the passage of the congressional joint resolution authorizing the President to proclaim October 15 as White Cane Safety Day, then President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized the importance of the white cane as a staff of independence for blind people. In the first Presidential White Cane Proclamation President Johnson commended the blind for the growing spirit of independence and the increased determination to be self-reliant that the organized blind had shown. The Presidential proclamation said:

The white cane in our society has become one of the symbols of a blind person’s ability to come and go on his own. Its use has promoted courtesy and special consideration to the blind on our streets and highways. To make our people more fully aware of the meaning of the white cane and of the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind persons who carry it Congress, by a joint resolution approved as of October 6, 1964, has authorized the President to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day.

Now, therefore, I, Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States of America do hereby proclaim October 15, 1964 as White Cane Safety Day.

With those stirring words President Johnson issued the first White Cane Proclamation which was the culmination of a long and serious effort on the part of the National Federation of the Blind to gain recognition for the growing independence and self-sufficiency of blind people in America, and also to gain recognition of the white cane as the symbol of that independence and that self-reliance.

The first of the state laws regarding the right of blind people to travel independently with the white cane was passed in 1930. In 1966, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the founder of the National Federation of the Blind, drafted the model White Cane Law. This model act—which has become known as the Civil Rights Bill for the Blind, the Disabled, and the Otherwise Physically Handicapped—contains a provision designating October 15 as White Cane Safety Day. Today there is a variant of the White Cane Law on the statute books of every state in the nation.

From 1963 (and even before) when the National Federation of the Blind sought to have White Cane Safety Day proclaimed as a recognition of the rights of blind persons, to 1978 when a blind pedestrian met with misunderstanding regarding the true meaning of the white cane, is but a short time in the life of a movement. In 1963, a comparatively small number of blind people had achieved sufficient independence to travel alone on the busy highways of our nation. In 1978 that number has not simply increased but multiplied a hundredfold. The process began in the beginning of the organized blind movement and continues today. There was a time when it was unusual to see a blind person on the street, to find a blind person working in an office, or to see a blind person operating machinery in a factory. This is still all too uncommon. But it happens more often and the symbol of this independence is the white cane. The blind are able to go, to move, to be, and to compete with all others in society. The means by which this is done is that simple tool, the white cane. With the growing use of the white cane is an added element—the wish and the will to be free—the unquenchable spirit and the inextinguishable determination to be independent. With these our lives are changed, and the prospects for blind people become bright. That is what White Cane Safety Day is all about. That is what we do in the National Federation of the Blind

I Do Do It: Three Fundamentals of Cane Travel

Reprinted from The Braille Monitor
by Peggy Elliott

From the Editor: Peggy Elliott is one of the best cane travelers I know. She is president of the Iowa affiliate, second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind, and a busy attorney and city council member in Grinnell, Iowa. All this means that she gets lots of practice using her cane. In the following article she draws from example and illustration to distill what some consider to be her rather eccentric cane technique from three fundamental skills. In addition she throws in a lot more good advice. If the test of successful cane travel is getting where you want to go safely, gracefully, and efficiently, Peggy is among our best travelers, and we should all pay close attention to her comments. This is what she says:

I learned to use a white cane a number of years ago under circumstances that would now be described as discovery learning, but before that term was coined. I was taught the fundamental cane technique of stepping and simultaneously tapping my cane in front of the foot I wasn’t stepping on and then stepping forward and repeating the simultaneous tapping in front of the other foot at the other end of an arc no wider than my shoulders. The technique is often called the two-point touch technique. I was taught to center my cane by holding it with my index finger extended and my thumb on top. The cane handle was to be kept near the center of my stomach. I was then drilled with daily practice for about nine months to perfect the skills of tapping, centering, staying in step, arcing widely enough, and trusting the information my cane provided until these techniques became so routine that I no longer needed to think about them and did them unconsciously.

Free White Cane Program

Individuals are eligible to receive free long white canes once every six months through the National Federation of the Blind’s Free White Cane program. Shortly after recipients receive a free white cane, they will be contacted by the National Federation of the Blind of Delaware (NFBDE) White Cane Committee. They will first receive an email welcoming them and informing the individual that they will be added to the NFBDE distribution listing. In that same message, the individual will find a link to the Free White Cane YouTube video which discusses basic techniques on how to use their new white cane. About four to five days after that email, they will receive a follow-up phone call. To request a Free White Cane, visit or dial 410-659-9314.