National event focuses on the visually impaired

By Dave gong

Saturday is White Cane Day, a national event designed to bring attention to people with visual impairments, said Gaylen Kapperman, coordinator of the NIU visual disibilities program.

White Cane Day focuses on the use of white canes which help people who are blind travel, Kapperman said.

“At NIU, we have one of the best known programs for teachers that want to work with school-age children who are blind,” said special education professor William Penrod. .

The Visual Disabilities Program is a training program designed to teach students how to work with children and adults who are visually impaired.

“There is a desperate need for people trained to work with people who are blind,” Kapperman said.

NIU offers courses designed to teach students how to work with both children and adults with visual impairments, Kapperman said. NIU also offers visual orientation and mobility training for students. The training teaches students how to travel like people who are blind through training with the white canes.

“Next spring semester, there will be 19 to 20 students in the class,” Kapperman said.

Kapperman said students without visual impairments can be helpful to students who are by including them and not isolating them.

“Sometimes sighted individuals do not know how to interact with [people who are blind],” Kapperman said. “I would suggest treating people who are blind like you would anyone else.”

Penrod said students should realize that people with visual impairments are simply competent people conducting their daily routine without vision.

“Students should use the same language [with a person who is blind] as they would with a person with vision,” Penrod said.

White Cane Day is an initiative that was first recognized by former President George W. Bush, Penrod said.

“[White Cane Day] indirectly celebrates something that should be close to the hearts of the people of Illinois; the first white cane laws originated in 1931 in Peoria.” Penrod said.