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HOUSTON Oct. 15 has been set aside as the nation s White Cane Safety Day, a day devoted to celebrating the independence, freedom, and opportunities for people who are blind or visually-impaired.

The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) in partnership with the City of Houston, National Federation of the Blind - Houston Chapter, the Houston Council of the Blind, and other businesses and organizations, have joined to commemorate this event with a march which will culminate at the steps of City Hall and reflection pool area at Walker Street at Smith Street on Tuesday, October 23, 2012.

Beginning at 10:00 a.m., Houstonians of all ages will gather on 914 Main Street to march to Hermann Square at 900 Smith Street. At 11:00 a.m., participants will gather for the presentation of a Mayoral White Cane Safety Day Proclamation followed by dozens of exhibitors, non-visual simulations & activities, assistive technology demonstrations, entertainment, and giveaways. The City of Houston is proud to participate in this special day that calls attention to the challenges faced by individuals who are blind or have visual impairments. It s a day to stop and think about what we can do to be responsive to their needs in our everyday public and private settings. It s part of our broader aim of embracing diversity and providing equal opportunity and access for all of our citizens, said Mayor Annise Parker.

White Cane Safety Day was first observed in 1964 after a proclamation by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The first White Cane Safety Day served as a safety reminder to promote courtesy and special consideration to people who are blind. Since that first observance, White Cane Safety Day has taken on greater meaning as a time to celebrate the independence of people who are blind or visually impaired and their right to participate fully in society. The white cane is not only an effective mobility tool, but also a powerful symbol of independence for people who are blind or visually impaired.

All 50 states have their own White Cane Laws, which not only address pedestrian safety for the blind but, more importantly, also guarantee civil rights protections. The Texas White Cane Law also ensures the rights of individuals traveling with a guide dog to have equal access to all public places.

Sponsors for this event in Houston are the Mayor s Office of Special Events, Mayor s Office for People with Disabilities, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Nation Federation of the Blind Houston Chapter, Houston Council of the Blind, Texas RehabACTion Network, Lighthouse of Houston, HEB, Houston Parks and Recreation, Houston East End Lion s Club, ACN Larry Pollock PH.D, Adams Insurance, Frito Lay, Randalls, Coca Cola, Houston Mayor s Committee for the Employment of People with Disabilities, and Dynamics Orthotics and Prosthetics/Hanger.

DARS is a state agency whose mission is to ensure Texas is a state where people with disabilities and children who have developmental delays enjoy the same opportunities as other Texans to live independent and productive lives. The agency administers programs that help Texans with disabilities access the job market with successful integration through the vocational rehabilitation process, live independently in their communities, and provides support to families who have children with disabilities and developmental delays.

For more information about the services that DARS provides to local businesses and to Texans with disabilities, please visit www.dars.state.tx.us or call the DARS Inquiries Line at 1-800-628-5115.

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