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Column: Hudson boy educates us about independence

The Wisconsin School for the Blind and Visually Impaired had students write letters to their hometown and regional newspapers in advance of White Cane Day 2018. Everett Alms of Hudson shared with RiverTown Multimedia what his white cane means to him.

"I have gotten used to bringing it whenever I travel or go out to dark places," Alms wrote in the Oct. 13 edition.

The 12-year-old's simple, effective letter caught the attention of the Republican Eagle REaders' Board, which met early this month and awarded him a Golden Quill.

"He's giving us a look at life from a different perspective," board member Jake Goering said in nominating Alms.

The board also recognized Prairie Island Tribal Council leaders with an honorable mention for their viewpoint explaining the importance of Barn Bluff.

The National Federation of the Blind in July 1963 called upon the governors of all 50 states to proclaim White Cane Safety Day. A year later, Congress passed a joint resolution signing into law authorizing the president to proclaim Oct. 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day.

The school in Janesville, Wis., formed a committee to use the day to educate citizens this year. Students were invited to send letters throughout the state.

Unfortunately, few newspapers chose to publish students' letters, according to Michelle L. Rueckert, the schools' library service assistant. We learned this after contacting Rueckert to explain that the REaders' Board members award Golden Quills a half dozen times a year as a way to recognize writers of quality, informative letters, and that Alms' letter would be republished as part of that honor. Those circumstances make the second publication especially rewarding this time.

We also share with you Lyndon B. Johnson's original presidential proclamation.

"The white cane in our society has become one of the symbols of a blind person's ability to come and go on his own. Its use has promoted courtesy and special consideration to the blind on our streets and highways. To make our people more fully aware of the meaning of the white cane and of the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind persons who carry it Congress, by a joint resolution approved as of October 6, 1964, has authorized the President to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day."

Not that long ago you wouldn't necessarily find someone with visual impairment walking down the street, working in an office or working in a factory. The white cane is a symbol of that change and increasing independence. Remember that the next time you see someone using one.

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson is news director with RiverTown Multimedia. 

(651) 301-7870
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