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By MCB Commissioner Janet LaBreck

Janet_labreckThe white cane is a symbol of independence reflecting a blind person’s ability to travel independently. As part of White Cane Day on October 15, the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) and the Department of Transportation are partnering in a campaign to remind motorists that they should come to a complete stop when they see a pedestrian with a white cane or a guide dog crossing the street.

We are very pleased to promote White Cane Safety in partnership with Transportation. These eight billboards, placed along highways and at key traffic points throughout the Commonwealth, provide timely information to drivers about pedestrian safety. Independence in travel is crucial for people who are blind to safely go to work, appointments, community and recreational activities."

Communities where digital billboards are running White Cane awareness messages include: Chicopee (I-90), Foxboro (Rt. 1), New Bedford (Rt. 195), Fall River (Rt. 195), Medford (I-93), Stoneham (I-93) and Lawrence (Rt. 495). These billboards provide safety reminders to motorists when visually-impaired individuals are crossing streets.

At the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, we also promote the following ‘Top 10’ list of things motorists should not do when seeing a pedestrian using a white cane or guide dog at street crossings.

10. Don’t stop your car more then five feet from the crosswalk line. A visually-impaired person might think that there’s something between the crosswalk and your car if you stop so far back. The expectation for all pedestrians is that a car stops directly behind, or fairly close, to the crosswalk.

 9. Don’t yell out, “It’s ok to cross!” This may cause confusion to a pedestrian, particularly if another driver pulls out in front of your vehicle.

 8. Don’t get impatient when waiting for a visually-impaired pedestrian to cross.  If a pedestrian places a long cane into the street, it usually indicates he or she will begin a crossing.  If the cane traveler takes a step back & pulls back the cane from the curb, it usually indicates the person will not be crossing at that time. 

7. Don’t consider a ‘rolling’ stop as a complete stop.  A stop sign means STOP! 

6. Don’t turn right on red without coming to a full stop and looking for pedestrians.  The Right on Red Law requires drivers to come to a complete stop prior to making a right turn.

 5. Don’t fail to stop for pedestrians at all crosswalks whether or not there is a traffic signal or stop sign.  Come to a full and complete stop.

4. Don’t stop your car in the middle of the crosswalk.

3. Don’t pass another car that has stopped and waiting for pedestrians to cross the street.

2. Don’t wave to pedestrians who are using a white cane or guide dog to indicate that you are waiting for them to cross. They CAN NOT see you.

1. Don’t honk!

As we acknowledge White Cane Safety and promote awareness among motorists about driving when in the proximity of the visually-impaired, I invite you to visit the MCB website to find out more, or contact the Orientation & Mobility Department at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind: 1-800-392-6450.

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