The government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare last Thursday 15th October, 2009, joined the rest of the world in commemorating World White Cane Day.
The observance of the day is meant to enlighten motorists, pedestrians and the public on the importance of white cane to the blind person. It is a day that reminds us of our moral and social responsibilities of assisting the blind and visually inspired person to move freely from one place to another.
The commemoration of this year’s World Cane Day was observed in Kaur, Lower Saloum District of the Central River Region.
In her statement to commemorate the day, Dr. Mariatou Jallow, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare said the observance of this day provides the international community with the opportunity and platform to reflect on the people with visual impairment, with a view to empower them to actively participate in all spheres of development.
“By allowing every blind person to move freely from place to place makes it possible for them to fully participate in and contribute towards the socio-economic development of the country,” she said.
This, she added, is made easier by the use of the white cane that every blind person has the right to carry which also demonstrates and symbolises his or her capacity to work more productively in competitive employment.
According to Dr. Jallow, government recognises the Department of Social Welfare under her ministry, which she said, is the government institution responsible for the protection and promotion of the rights and welfare of the disabled groups, including people with disabilities.
Dr. Jallow re-iterated government’s concern and commitment to the welfare of the blind. “It is a government’s policy that every child has a fundamental right to be educated and must be given the opportunity to access quality education and training for increased meaningful participation in society,” she stated.
She called on drivers, security personnel, health workers, pedestrians and all road users to give the blind the due attention they deserve.
The negative misconception of blindness, Dr Jallow added, must change and the society must take up the challenge and give blind persons the chance to become productive members of society.