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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 15, 1999




The white cane is widely recognized as a symbol of independence for people who are blind or visually impaired. This simple device has given freedom to generations of blind Americans by enabling them to move through their communities with greater ease, confidence, and safety.

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, former President of the National Federation of the Blind who died just a year ago this month, was an early advocate of the white cane and the full integration of blind people into every aspect of society. Dr. Jernigan used the white cane himself and recognized its power as a means to allow blind people to leave the confines of their homes for the outside world -- to go to school and to work and to make ever-greater contributions to their communities.

Thanks to enormous advances in technology, people who are blind or visually impaired now have additional tools -- such as voice recognition software, computer screen readers, and braille translators -- to assist them in carrying out their responsibilities on the job. My Administration has proposed increased investment in such assistive technology as well as a $1,000 tax credit to help people with disabilities offset the cost of special transportation requirements and work-related expenses. I have also strongly urged the Congress to pass the Work Incentives Improvement Act so that Americans with disabilities can go to work without jeopardizing their Medicare or Medicaid coverage.

We can be heartened today that many barriers to full inclusion for blind Americans have been dismantled. But the greatest barrier still remains: the attitude of too many sighted people that those who are blind or visually impaired are incapable of holding their own in the working world. On White Cane Safety Day, let us reaffirm our national commitment to providing equal opportunity for all Americans, regardless of disability.

To honor the many achievements of blind and visually impaired citizens and to recognize the white cane's significance in advancing independence, the Congress, by joint resolution approved October 6, 1964, has designated October 15 of each year as "White Cane Safety Day."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim October 15, 1999, as White Cane Safety Day. I call upon the people of the United States, government officials, educators, and business leaders to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of October, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-fourth.


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