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Lighthouse of SWFL hosts ‘White Cane Walk 2018’

By Staff | Oct 24, 2018

Lighthouse of SWFL hosted its “White Cane Walk” from 11 a.m. to noon at the busy corner of Pine Island Road and Old 41/North Tamiami Trail last Monday.

Residents of all ages and abilities came out to walk in the shoes of those who are blind or have vision impairment. The event was free to the public and was conducted by guides from Lighthouse of SWFL with assistance from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

Everyone participating in the walk received a white cane and blindfold prior to making their way around a bustling, four-way corner located on Old 41. Event coordinators, who are experienced guides, assisted participants and assured to their safety.

For walk participants such as Herb Williams and his service dog Star, this is a task they undertake on every day.

“I’m currently 95 percent blind and can see very faint shadows. I have to use my cane before I take a step and to help guide me around obstacles. I sometimes even use the cane when I’m with Star,” said Williams.

Williams was not born blind. He gradually lost his vision throughout the years due to a form of eye degeneration.

“When I realized that I couldn’t see anymore, I did not even want to leave my house or go out in my neighborhood. I did not want people to know that I was visually impaired. Mike Brust, the orientation and mobility specialist from Lighthouse, visited my house many times and finally convinced me to take my life back and learn how to use the cane,”?he said.

Williams learned rather quickly how to get around despite limitations. He was later paired up with his service companion, a yellow lab.

“She not only leads me around, but she is my best friend,” Williams said.

Following the walk, participants were invited to attend a luncheon held at Lighthouse of SWFL. The meal was catered by Jason’s Deli.

According to Lighthouse Community Relations Coordinator Amy Turner, this event serves a reminder to those driving motor vehicles that they need to both recognize and obey the rules of pedestrian crossovers, especially when it comes to individuals who need assistance due to a vision impairment.

The White Cane Walk is held annually in observance of National White Cane Safety Day, which serves as an educational reminder that motor vehicles and pedestrians should yield the right of way to people with blindness or vision impairment using a long white cane.

Lighthouse of SWFL is a nationally accredited, non-profit agency which provides a variety of vision rehabilitation and support services to babies, children, teens, adults and their families experiencing major vision loss and blindness. All programs and services are free and cover ages from newborn to those in their golden years. Classes include safe cooking, Braille, orientation and mobility, technology using iPhones, art, ballroom dance, and more.

For more information, visit lighthouseswfl.org, email aturner@lighthouseswfl.org or call 239-997-7797.