KARACHI, Oct 14: The International White Cane Safety Day is being observed in the city on Tuesday to highlight the issues being faced by visually impaired people.

A press conference was held at the Karachi Press Club on Monday by the Pakistan Disabled Foundation to urge the authorities to solve the issues being faced by the handicapped on a priority basis so that their lives could become easier.

Speaking at the press conference, PDF chief Shahid Ahmad Memon demanded that education and employment opportunities be provided to the handicapped.

He pointed out that many of the facilities that had been established for the handicapped were not being used for the purpose for which these were set up. Citing a few examples, he said that hostels were established with the Al-Makhtoum Institute in Islamabad and the Quaideen and Shaheed-i-Millat Institutes in Karachi, but these were not being used as hostels for over a decade now.

He said that though the equipment and other facilities were available for the Talking Book Library at the Al-Makhtoum Institute in Islamabad, they had not been made operational. He suggested that an inquiry be initiated in to the affairs of the National Trust for Disabled Persons, and National Braille Press to improve their quality of work.

The PDF chief also demanded that a clear policy be formulated to regulate the affairs of various non governmental organizations working for the handicapped, as these not only obtained donations and enjoyed benefits of income tax exemptions, but also charged fees from their students.

He also expressed concern over the reports that education for the handicapped was being handed over to the department of social welfare. He suggested that if it was necessary, then it should be given to the education department.

He also demanded that a true representative of disabled people be nominated to the task force that has been appointed to highlight the issues and suggest its recommendations.

PROGRAMMES: The Ida Rieu School and College for the Blind and Deaf has organized many programmes to observe the white cane day on Tuesday.

A walk is being organized by the Ida Rieu on Tuesday morning. Blind children, assisted by their deaf colleagues, will start the walk from the school at Purani Numaish, and it will conclude at the Mazar of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Later, a programme comprising of a quiz show, debate, music competition, poetry competition and tableaux will also be organized at 11am.

Also, a function for visually impaired children is being organized at a local five star hotel by social worker Jimmy Engineer at noon.

HISTORY: The movement to observe a day for the blind was felt after the world wars, which had left a large number of people handicapped, many of these visually impaired.

The movement gained recognition in early 1960s, when two blind people in the United States lost their lives in road accidents, and during the investigations, the drivers of the vehicles who had run over the victims said that they were not aware that these were blind people.

Soon, a resolution was moved, which was subsequently also adopted in the United Nations, which declared Oct 15 as ‘World Blinds Day,’ and the white cane was declared as a symbol of blindness. Hence, it was decided that a blind person would carry a white cane so that others could easily recognize that he or she was visually impaired.

Over the years, the white cane has become a symbol for the blind throughout the world, and drivers are particularly supposed to take extra care when they see a person walking with the help of the white cane, so that they do not meet any mishap.