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Port Alberni’s Canadian Council of the Blind celebrates White Cane Week

City councillor joins meeting to discuss accessibility challenges, promote ACRD committee
City of Port Alberni councillor Cindy Solda, left, joins members of the Port Alberni chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind to declare the week of Feb. 4-10, 2024 White Cane Week in the city. (SUSIE QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The Port Alberni chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind and the City of Port Alberni declared Feb. 4–10 White Cane Week in the city.

In 1946 the national Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) held the first “White Cane Week” in Canada and it continues to be held annually during the first week of February.

Port Alberni city councillor Cindy Solda visited the February CCB meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 7 where members discussed accessibility challenges within the city. Subjects that came up included trees planted on the sidewalks as well as uneven sidewalks, and potholes in streets.

“We know we have a lot of accessibility issues,” Solda acknowledged. “The ACRD has put together an accessibility committee,” she said, asking the group to submit a list of obstacles to accessibility that they have noticed. The committee’s first meeting is planned for March 5 at the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District office, 3008 Fifth Ave. in Port Alberni.

Solda said a group of residents at Abbeyfield House advocated years ago for audible street crossing signals for pedestrians in their neighbourhood, and encouraged the CCB members to speak up about accessibility issues too.

Chapter president Jenn Collette thanked the city for recognizing White Cane Week and for supporting accessibility and inclusivity in the community. “While vision loss is many times considered an invisible disability, the white cane helps many blind or low vision individuals navigate the way forward and is a way to communicate this disability to others within their vicinity,” Collette said.

The CCB chapter in Port Alberni is comprised of 20 members, and several of them use white canes to navigate city streets, Collette said.

In 1921, English photographer James Biggs was blinded in an accident. Released from the hospital, he had the idea of painting his cane white so he could be easily seen at night. Biggs’ innovation soon became an internationally accepted symbol of blindness, she explained.

“Today, nine provinces have legislation that restrict the use of the white cane to those who are legally blind.”

The Canadian Council of the Blind was established in 1944 by blind war veterans and schools for the blind. The national office is located in Ottawa and there are more than 75 Chapters across Canada. It is the largest membership based organization for the blind in Canada and is known as “the Voice of the Blind.”

Members of the Port Alberni chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind gather monthly to support one another and to learn about how they might overcome some of the challenges of living with low vision and blindness. Guest speakers are selected from many organizations including CNIB, Vision Loss Rehabilitation Services, BC Transit/HandyDart, Vancouver Island Regional Library, as well as a variety of service organizations and health care and vision care professionals.

The CCB meets the first Wednesday of the month at 10 a.m. in the lower meeting room of Abbeyfield House. Annual membership costs $10. Anyone with a vision impairment who feels they would benefit from support is welcome to attend. For more information, call Jenn Collette at 250-240-1738.

About the Author: Alberni Valley News Staff

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