Community urged to keep “Eyes Up” from mobiles this International White Cane Day
Constant use of mobile devices is now part of everyday life, but alarming new statistics have revealed it’s a danger that impacts many Australians who are blind or vision impaired every time they leave the house.
A recent survey conducted by Guide Dogs Australia and VisAbility revealed almost half of all people who use a white cane were bumped into at least once every time they are out, with almost 60% of cane users reporting the incidences were caused by people engrossed in their mobile devices.
Worryingly, almost half of all cane users had also been knocked over, injured or had their cane broken by someone walking into them in the last two years.
The organisations are launching the “Eyes Up” campaign ahead of International White Cane Day on 15 October, calling on members of the community to look up from their mobile devices when they’re walking to help those who are blind or vision impaired stay safe.
VisAbility CEO Dr Clare Allen said the results of this new survey told of a reality that many white cane users had come to know in the last few years.
“Our instructors work with white cane users in Western Australia and Tasmania to teach them the skills they need to get around their communities safely and independently. Unfortunately there are certain environmental factors, like pedestrians, that they often can’t identify until it’s too late,” Dr Allen said.
“Sometimes running into someone can just be a shock but other times it can be very harmful, upsetting and disorienting for the person with vision loss, particularly when it results in an injury or a broken cane.
“A cane enables a person with vision loss to move freely and detect if there are any potential dangers in front of them. If their cane gets broken, they lose the ability to judge what’s ahead.
“The most common cause for these situations, when it can be identified, is that the other person was on their mobile phone and not paying attention to where they were walking.
We need the assistance of the community to help us look out for those who can’t see as well as you and I can, by keeping their eyes up and being mindful of who’s around them while using mobile devices in public. – Dr Clare Allen
White cane user Kenneth Phua is one such person affected by this. He is featured in VisAbility’s International White Cane Day awareness video, which shows him on his daily commute colliding with a pedestrian using their phone.
“I’ve definitely had the occasional experience being bumped into. It’s hard enough navigating while being blind, so if the person on the street with sight chooses to be blinded by looking at their devices, then we are set on a collision course. My white cane can’t tell me where they’re looking.” Kenneth said.
“I’ve noticed that collisions often occur when I’m in a location populated with students. They tend to have their eyes glued to their phones. I’m hoping a campaign like this will educate the younger generation to look out for others while commuting.”
Dr Clare Allen said taking small actions while using your mobile device can make a big difference to help reduce the danger to those who are blind or vision impaired.
“We all have a role to play in helping to make sure people who are blind or vision impaired can get around their communities safely and confidently, just like everyone else,” Dr Allen said.
“In this case it can be as easy as waiting until you reach your destination to check your mobile device, or using more caution by slowing your pace and looking up often if you have to use your device while walking.
“Many of us have become accustomed to using our mobile devices constantly, but it’s something we can easily be more mindful of to help ensure all Australians are able to feel safe and independent.”
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