Mississippi State University’s National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision is hosting an informational event in honor of White Cane Awareness Day Oct. 15. The event is taking place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Drill Field and will include booths, an obstacle course and games.
White Cane Awareness Day occurs annually on Oct. 15. According to Kendra Farrow, the NRTC’s Research and Training associate, this day is designed to bring awareness to people with blindness and low vision and to teach people about white canes.
While gesturing to her white cane, Farrow explained its significance.
“It is a mobility tool that helps the individual who cannot see to know what is in front of them,” Farrow said. “They can detect surface changes, drop-offs and stairs.”
The informational booths will allow people to experience what it is like to have blindness or low vision. According to Emily Damm, the NRTC’s communications specialist, visitors can go to the welcome booth to learn about interacting with a person who uses a white cane, the laws regarding white canes and blindness-related professions.
At another booth, visitors can braille their name and interact with an off-duty guide dog. A representative will talk about the importance of braille and how those with blindness and low vision use it to read, Damm said.
Visitors can also put on simulator glasses at the booth. Damm said people can wear glasses or a bandanna while participating in a smell test with different spices. The smell test allows people to see what it would be like to cook in the kitchen with a visual impairment.
“We have simulator glasses that show what it would be like to see with Glaucoma or a diabetes condition,” Damm said. “They can pick out one of these eye conditions to wear or use a bandanna to have complete blindness.”
While wearing glasses or a bandanna, visitors can go through an obstacle course that is run by MSU sorority, Delta Gamma. According to Andrea Black, a senior studying biological sciences and the Delta Gamma vice president of Foundation, participants can navigate through a path that contains boxes and other objects.
“The course brings an educational opportunity about the world of blindness, but it is still in a fun way,” Black said. “It allows people to really understand what is going on, but it is not a presentation. People are still having fun while promoting awareness and understanding.”
According to Clare Baumhauer, a senior marketing major and the president of Delta Gamma, the sorority’s philanthropy is Service for Sight, and they share the same mission as the NRTC. The sorority wants to help educate students on this campus about blindness and visual impairment.
Visitors can also participate in games designed for people with blindness and low vision. According to Damm, participants can play goalball and beep baseball while wearing simulator glasses or a blindfold.
Goalball is a game of goalies versus goalies. The ball has bells attached to it, so the players can locate the ball. In beep baseball, players run between two bases and play with a ball that beeps.
Damm expressed that the NRTC typically works to help individuals who are blind and visually impaired through research, programs and other service providers. She said she is excited to do something different and work with the community through this event.
“This is new for us to go directly into the community and have this awareness event, but we felt like the celebration of the white cane aligns perfectly with our mission of providing education to the community,” Damm said.
Speaking as a person with blindness, Farrow notices the lack of understanding about blindness and low vision. She experiences people who do not understand her condition and treat her like she is not capable.
Farrow believes this event can allow people to change their mindset and appropriately interact with those who are blind and visually impaired.
“If someone loses their vision, it is not the end. There are plenty of activities that a person can do. There are plenty of jobs that a person can do,” Farrow said. “If someone loses their vision, it is important to have the idea planted in your mind that they can still be a successful person.”
Farrow said she hopes NRTC's activities in honor of White Cane Awareness Day serve as an educational opportunity that the community can enjoy.