By Isabella Iradukunda Elisabeth
Members of the Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) have requested the Road Safety Department in Rwanda National Police to take strict measures so that all drivers and road users give value anyone who uses a ‘white cane’ because it is a sign of disability that he/she has and thus his/her Security must be properly enforced.
The call was made on Monday, October 11, 2021 during the official launch of a week dedicated to the white cane in order to remind its importance to the general public and especially to all road users.
The launch of the weeklong activities took place in Kigali with the participation of persons with visual impairment supported by various stakeholders who were passing on messages in various vehicles explaining the importance of a white cane.
They said that there are still obstacles because many people do not know the importance of a White cane and thus they do not give them their rights to movement and there are others who steal them thinking that they are made of gold.
Mr. Mugisha Jacques, in charge of the advocacy department at RUB, said the lack of awareness of the importance of white canes among road users puts the lives of the blind at risk.
He goes on to explain that there is also a problem that there is another number of people who do not have white canes so they should also be enabled to get them as many of them have limited resources that cannot afford it.
“We urge people to know that whenever they meet a person with this cane, it is a sign that he has visual impairment. Once they find out that he has a visual impairment, they will make it easier for him/her to cross the road,” he said.
Mugisha added that: “In Rwanda we do not have a clear way to get these white canes. Usually these canes are not affordable by all of us while they are used for medical purposes and so far the Ministry of Health has not established a sustainable way to get these canes.”
Byukusenge Anisie, a visually impaired person who uses a white cane, said that they have problems, but a person without a white cane would have a hard time to go alone because he/she doesn’t always hope to get someone who will assist him/her along the way.
Byukusenge said, “It is very important for a person to have a white cane to help him do his/her daily routine, to increase the sense of freedom, to increase the independence, to do his/her schedule on time. So without a white cane it would not be easy for him/her to go alone.”
“The problem with Persons with visual impairment is that they can be harassed by those who do not know the importance of a white cane, whether you have it, you cannot easily break through the intended lines rather they harass you because they do not know the importance of that kind of stick,” she said.
“We urge the government to ensure that these white canes are included in the health insurance scheme because people with visual impairments do not have means to afford them. Many have no job, so not everyone can afford it.” Byukusenge said
“If everyone will be able to buy it at a low cost for all those with visual impairments, that security/safety and freedom can be achieved.” She said
RUB Executive Director Dr. Donatille Kanimba said that after this weeklong campaign, it is hoped that people will understand the importance of white canes, especially drivers, so that a person with a visual impairment can be safe on the road with a white cane.
Dr. Kanimba explained that “Even though we have been celebrating white cane every month of October for twelve years, people are not aware of it. You find that many people are not giving the value it deserves. Instead, you will see cars and motorcycles continue to cross while there is a white cane holder that is stuck aside because he/she can’t pass without the right safety,” she said.
“We want that whenever a police officer or any other person sees a visually impaired person walking with a white cane, find a way to help him to cross.” She said