TAPPING THE BENEFITS OF THE WHITE CANE: Vision Australia held its annual White Cane Day celebration on Tuesday with a walk from their Langtree Avenue office to the Quality Grand Hotel rose garden to raise awareness of the visually impaired and their reliance on the white cane. Pictured are Andrew Edwards and Wyn Edwards, who joined the annual walk.

By JOHN DOOLEY

THE Mildura branch of Vision Australia held its annual White Cane Day celebrations on Tuesday, with more than 60 clients and volunteers taking part.

The walk aims to raise awareness of how white canes support users to be active and independent.

Event co-ordinator, Vision Australia Service Engagement consultant Sally Edwards, said that White Cane Day was a national event that the organisation always celebrates, coinciding with International White Cane Day.

“It’s about promoting awareness of people with vision impairment and how a white cane can make a world of difference to their independence and safety, and how it allows them to get out and about in the community like everyone else,” she said.

The white cane is the most common mobility aid used by blind and partially-sighted people in the world. It’s recognised world-wide as a symbol of freedom, independence and confidence, as it enables a blind person to move about freely and safely.

In celebrating the White Cane Day, Vision Australia is drawing attention to the shared spaces in town centres where pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists spontaneously share the same space.

One of the visually-impaired walkers taking part was Wyn Edwards, who said the day was an opportunity to give support to, and create awareness of, the local Vision Australia group.

“It’s a mighty group, which you can see by the gathering here today,” she said. “There are people representing the various groups in the Vision Australia organisation, including the ‘Learn and Do’ program, where visually-impaired people go out into the community and find out what they can and can’t do.

“For example some us take part in tenpin bowling, we’ve done croquet, soccer, even hitting golf balls on the driving range… and there’s a modified game of table tennis called swish.”

Wyn explained that she is ‘legally blind’ and doesn’t have any central vision, but still manages to take part in activities.

“I do have some lower and peripheral vision, and I have learnt to ‘track and scan’, which allows me to move around fairly safely,” she said. “One of the biggest hazards in my life are all these new generation cars which are so quiet, which are a bit of a trap for people.”

Some of the group, who aren’t independently mobile and couldn’t walk the full distance, still took part with the assistance of one of Vision Australia’s cars, which was doing the rounds bringing people to the stop-off points to join in the fun.

Also walking was Andrew Edwards, who has called Mildura home for 18 years and is a regular participant in the annual event. 

“I’ve been involved with Vision Australia as a client and volunteer for more than three years, and have taken part in the walk every year, it’s a great day out and we try to get everyone involved and the weather couldn’t have been better,” he said. 

The walk commenced at 9.30am, following a briefing at Vision Australia’s offices in Langtree Avenue, after which the group set off down through the mall, eventually arriving at the Quality Grand Hotel for photos and a relaxing chat in the sunny rose garden.

From there the walkers headed back to Banjos cafe for a coffee, and there was talk of a visit to the 48 Flavours ice cream parlour on the way!