Since 1980, on October 15, World White Cane Day has been celebrated , a date to demand the integration and awareness of society with people with visual disabilities . Although cities are increasingly adapted and society more aware of what blind people need , there is still much to do. On the one hand, even more adapted cities are needed and, on the other, more information so that people who do not have visual disabilities know how and when they interact with people who do.
Fátima Peinado, Head of the Department of Social Services for Members at ONCE in Madrid and a user of a white cane, gives us some keys to help without intruding.
Most of our cities have greatly improved accessibility for people with visual disabilities , but, according to Fátima, there is still a lot to do, at least in Madrid, which is where she resides, “I have to admit that basic accessibility measures They are covered, such as audible traffic lights, crossroads are marked, public transport also has accessibility measures … in this type of measures, a lot of progress has been made in recent years and this allows us to move more safely ”, he says.
However, there are obstacles that cannot be resolved, and even some that have appeared recently, especially on the sidewalks “wherethere are obstacles that prevent us from moving with a minimum of safety and comfort. Some examples are the scooters, which people literally leave lying on the sidewalks and that causes falls, accidents … , the restaurant posters with the menus, the terraces that have invaded the pedestrian areas, the containers, that the trucks they leave anyway… ”, he assures.
Another ‘obstacle’ is the ignorance that, in addition to the white cane, there is a red and white cane, “white is a fully accepted symbol that identifies people with visual disabilities very well, but not so much with the cane white and red, which indicates that the person wearing it, in addition to being visually impaired, has some type of hearing impairment ”.
Physical obstacles aside, another problem faced by white cane users is the misinformation of the people, who many times, with the willingness to help, annoy blind people and even make it difficult for them to move on the street. In general, people know very well what a white cane means, but not how and when to help, ” the right thing always is to approach the person and ask if you need help, do not assume that we need help for the failure see .
For example, many times blind people to move do things that people who see well identify it as that we are going to crash, fall, that we are lost … and it is not like that, because maybe we are moving something away, checking if there is obstacles ”, he clarifies.
And the thing is, this eagerness to help sometimes leads them to do things that annoy them a lot, such as “making decisions for you, taking you by the arm or pushing you to the side without saying anything to you . That happens, for example, when you are waiting for the subway and they suddenly catch you thinking that you are going to fall on the road. That makes us very scared … Another thing that bothers a lot is that they take your cane or lift it.
For us it is very important, on the one hand, to always have it in hand, and on the other, that it is always on the ground, because it is the way we have to locate steps, obstacles … if it is taken away or lifted, even with good intentions or intentions, we lose our reference to the ground, and that scares us a bit. Another thing they do a lot is beat voices at you, even from afar when they yell at you ‘watch out, there’s a container!’ ”, he laughs.
“If we get disoriented, we get lost… we will always ask for help. So it’s better to ask the person first if they really need help rather than intervene. “
And it is that, Fatima, wants to make it clear that, whenever they need help, they will ask for it, “if we get disoriented, we get lost… we will always ask for help. So, although it is appreciated that they offer it to you, it is better to ask the person first if they really need help instead of intervening “, asks.
And he always says this from gratitude, because he knows that, behind an offer or an intervention, even if it is inappropriate, there is always the desire to help people who need it, “there are people who do nothing directly and others who do not He does it simply because he understands that he does not have to always help us. But in general, there are more people who are overprotective. It is true that sometimes it can be a bit intrusive, but at least we have no doubt that, whenever we need help, we will have it. There is a lot of solidarity, the people are very aware, ”she says gratefully.
Keys to help without bothering
Luckily, and thanks to the joint work of society, organizations and administrations, blind people increasingly have more tools to move without much difficulty and with autonomy, therefore, although you have to be alert and help whenever necessary, you do not have to assume that a person with visual impairment has to need help just because they are. Fatima gives us some clues on how to act:
• Don’t assume that people need help simply because they can’t see. Surely that blind person moves through an environment that he knows, always the same areas and itineraries …
• Unless you see a real dangerous situation, it is better not to shout, shout, grab our arms … things that can scare us a lot.
• If we think the person needs help, we go over, put our hand lightly on his shoulder and always talk to him , because the voice transmits information to us. So we ask if you need anything.
• Respect the person’s response. If, after offering your help, he tells you that he does not need anything, respect him, because it will be like that, do not insist.
If you have any questions, we can consult the brochure LOOK! , an illustrated guide in which, through images, simple recommendations and with a great sense of humor, ONCE shows society how to relate and interact with blind people.