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White Cane Day: ‘90 per cent of blindness could be prevented’

Blindness

• FNSB Condemns Importation Of White Cane
Tomorrow is the White Cane Day!
The Federal Nigeria Society for the Blind(FNSB) has reiterated the need for the country to deepen its support for its four million visually impaired citizens. The body also canvassed inclusive living, subsidising White Cane and integration of visually impaired persons and other people with disabilities into the national economy.

Proclaimed in 1964 by President Lyndon B Johnson in the United States by an Act of Congress, White Cane Day is marked yearly to serve as a reminder of the essential humanity of visually-impaired persons and the consequent need to ensure they get the public support they require to live independent, happy and meaningful lives while giving back to their communities, to celebrate the abilities and successes achieved by blind people in a sighted world, and to honour the many contributions being made by the blind and visually impaired.

The day is named after the white walking stick used as a mobility aid by the visually impaired.

The theme for the 13th FNSB White Cane safety day commemoration was: “Blind, Yet We Can!”

Announcing the centre’s plan for the event at FNSB Vocational Training Centre, Oshodi, Lagos, Chairman, White Cane Committee, Yinka Akande lamented lack of support from Federal Government, and urged the public to be more empathetic to the plight of the visually impaired.

He said: “The challenges faced by individuals with special needs in terms of mobility and orientation, brought on by visual impairment make it difficult for the individuals to move unaided from one place to another. The consequential effect is that life becomes miserable for affected persons, and they may become economically unproductive and dependent.

“They may also become a burden not just to themselves, but also to their families and the society.

“While the oddity of two adults walking together is obvious, the abnormality of a child leading his visually impaired parent on a daily basis can be life altering and grossly disruptive.

“The child is overworked, deprived the opportunity to play and enjoy childhood with peers; deprived of academic opportunity; and exposed to risks and abuse. All these and more happen while the visually impaired parent is trying to earn a living.”

Speaking on the need to subsidise white cane, he said: “Presently, standard white canes are not made in Nigeria and, therefore, have to be imported, and the least you can get is N10,000.

“Thus, it is a foreign exchange-dependent article of mobility.This also applies to other mobility aids and accessories for the visually impaired. Consequently, being visually impaired makes living very expensive.”

While appealing to the public to donate White Canes to the centre and for Federal Government to be alive to its duty, Executive Council member, FNSB, Adeola Obagun, who praised Lagos State government for its support towards the centre and implementing a special people law, said: “Ninety percent of blind cases could be prevented, if it was detected early. If you have not done an eye test in the last six months, you are surcharging yourself. People should go for an eye test at least once in six months. Most visually impaired persons were not born blind.

“We’ll be having a free eye screening exercise for about 100 public transport drivers and bus boys (conductors) who are members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), as well as sensitisation about white cane users on October 27, 2018.
“With over four million Nigerians needing White Cane, why are we still importing the product? Why are we not making this in the country and create jobs for Nigerians, thereby making it affordable for the visually impaired persons?

“We are calling on government, international organisations, corporate world, philanthropists and everyone to donate more White Canes for the use of the visually impaired on October 15, 2018, to assist FNSB by donating White Cane to the society.

“The government should provide adequate rehabilitators to train visually impaired persons to properly use white cane and educate motorists on the need to stop whenever they see a person raising his/her White Cane on the road.
“We are also calling on the National Assembly to enact a law making roads, sidewalks, kerbs and pedestrian bridges conducive for White Cane users, rather being dotted with gaping gutters and open drainages occupied by street traders.

“Nigeria is long overdue in this 21st century for smart traffic lights along our major roads, which visually impaired can press to control traffic whenever they need to cross roads, to make our road infrastructure conducive for the use of White Cane holders with particular attention to Agege Motor Road and Cappa Bus Stop, which is close to the vocational training centre.”

In this article:
BlindFNSBYinka Akande
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