On Saturday, October 15, 2022, the World Blind Union will celebrate White Cane Safety Day. Each year, the WBU, along with millions of blind and partially sighted individuals across the world, commemorates this important day. On this day, we celebrate not only the white cane as a mobility tool, but all that it represents – independence, safety, dignity, and the right to lead the life you choose.
Thanks to the many generous contributions to the WBU’s Ukrainian Unity Fund, this year on October 15, dozens of Ukrainians who are blind or partially sighted will have access to a white cane. Through a collaboration with Ambutech and a Ukrainian-Canadian named Anna Drannik, the WBU was able to send more than a hundred white canes and over two hundred cane accessories to the Ukrainian Association of the Blind, WBU’s member organization in Ukraine.
“The white cane is an incredibly powerful tool for anyone who is blind or partially sighted, but for those who are displaced due to natural disaster, or due to the effects of climate change, or, tragically in the case of Ukraine, due to war, the white cane takes on an even greater level of importance”, said Martine Abel-Williamson, President of the World Blind Union. “Imagine being forced to leave your home, the place you are most familiar with, and having to orient yourself to new surroundings without the aid of a white cane. This would be tremendously difficult, and I’m so glad the WBU is able to offer a small amount of support to blind and partially sighted Ukrainians so that they don’t have to face this daunting situation”, added Abel-Williamson.
Anna Drannik, a Ukrainian-Canadian living in Canada, approached WBU with an idea to send white canes to one of her contacts in Ukraine. Earlier this year, she worked with Ambutech, a cane manufacturer based in Canada, to send a shipment of canes to Ukraine, and based on that success, she was hoping to do it a second time. This is where the WBU and the Ukrainian Unity Fund entered the picture.
“We were blown away by the outpouring of donations when we established the Ukrainian Unity Fund. The generosity of so many individuals and organizations was incredibly moving”, said Marc Workman, WBU CEO. “This was the perfect project for us to support, exactly what this fund was created for”, added Workman.
“I was never looking for any acknowledgement and was simply trying to help, the same way as many other people who care about people in need and those who are vulnerable. Obviously, we are all trying to help for the cause and not to gain any self-popularity or self-promotion”, said Anna Drannik. “Without the support, the time, and foremost the dedication from so many people, this effort would not have been possible! Thank you so much and from the bottom of my heart for believing in our efforts”, added Drannik.
The shipment of canes started arriving in early October and have now all arrived safely according to Igor Kushnir, a Specialist in Information Technologies with the Training and Information Computer Center of the Ukrainian Association of the Blind.
“We are very grateful for your help in such a difficult time for Ukraine. We really appreciate your support”, said Igor Kushnir.
As we mark this year’s International White Cane Safety Day, let us not only celebrate the symbolism of the white cane, but also reflect on the significance this tool has for those blind and partially sighted people all over the world who are displaced and whose lives have been disrupted due to natural disasters and war. There are many blind and partially sighted people in Ukraine and elsewhere who still need white canes and the training to use them. Governments, NGOs, civil society, and the private sector have a responsibility to come together to ensure that no one who is blind or partially sighted is left without access to this essential tool for mobility and independence.
Communications Specialist, World Blind Union