Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

World White Cane Day is being observed across the globe today to recognise the movement of blind people from dependency to active participation in society. However, several visually-impaired persons in Odisha have brought allegations that the Odisha government is neither providing white canes to beneficiaries nor is imparting training to them on how to use the sticks.

White cane is an important mobility tool and a symbol of independence. Canes have been used by visually-impaired people for centuries but white cane was not in use before the 20th century. It was introduced in the US in 1930s and it helped motorists identify visually-impaired people walking on the streets. The cane has now become a symbol of freedom, independence, and confidence across the world.  

“The four-fold cane enables a visually-impaired person to move freely and helps in accomplishing daily tasks. It also helps the visually-impaired persons in assessing the situation, directions, obstacles while roaming on road and take decisions quickly without any hesitation. The tool enables a visually-impaired person in doing almost everything in his or her life without much difficulty. A visually-impaired person needs four to five white canes every year,” said Prakash Mohapatra, a visually-impaired person who uses the white cane to move on roads for accomplishing his daily chores.

“World White Cane Day is also observed to celebrate the achievement of the visually-impaired people. The stick is of great utility to us. We can know the obstacles in our way by using the stick. All the visually-impaired persons should use the stick to avoid any kind of mistake,” said Parbati Dhala, a teacher in Bhima Bhoi Visually-Impaired school in Bhubaneswar.

Meanwhile, the Utkal Blind Association has alleged that Social Security & Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Department (SSEPD) in Odisha has not taken any steps to provide white canes to the beneficiaries in the State for the last five years. The Association has further alleged that the department is not appointing mobility instructors in different visually-impaired schools anymore to impart training to the students about proper use of white canes.

“Visually-impaired persons are not being provided white canes by the State government. Mobility teachers are also not getting appointment anymore to train the students about the utility of white canes. As a result, visually-impaired persons and students are getting lots of difficulties to move outside for their daily chores and livelihood purposes,” said Sarat Kumar Das, Secretary of Utkal Blind Association.

However, Social Security & Empowerment Minister Ashok Chandra Panda refuted the allegations of Utkal Blind Association.

“The allegations are baseless. There is no dearth of white canes. We are providing sticks to the real beneficiaries by different nodal agencies every year. We have procured more than 4,900 white canes and distributed around 2,500 sticks,” said Panda.

(Reported by Niranjan Reddy)