Oct. 12, 2006 — St. Thomas resident Edita Carty knows firsthand why residents should observe White Cane Day on Sunday: Blind almost since birth, she's navigated St. Thomas' uneven sidewalks and dealt with vehicles blocking the sidewalks for most of her life.
"And some people would stand right there to see if I ran into them," she said.
Carty, 46, said that it didn't bother her when children did it because they were curious, but the adults were another matter.
The purpose of White Cane Day, observed across the nation and in the territory, is to highlight the rights and concerns of people who are blind or vision impaired.
"The whole mission is to create awareness," Center for Independent Living Director Felecia Brownlow said.
After graduating from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh with a degree in business administration, Carty worked as a legislative researcher for the late Sen. Michael Paiewonsky. In that job, she helped get White Cane legislation through the Senate and passed into law.
The Tortola native then worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor.
In 1989 Carty married a sighted man and later stayed home to raise their two children. She now works with her husband, Dale Carty, in his insurance business.
She said her husband drives her where she needs to go so she doesn't have to deal with the sidewalk issues.
"But I'm very concerned about other people still fighting," she said, adding that she plans to participate in Sunday's event.
In observance of the event, the Center for Independent Living on St. Thomas and St. Croix will hold White Cane Education Days, which will include awareness walks, demonstrations and speakers.
On St. Thomas, the education event begins at 10 a.m. Monday. Brownlow said the walk stretches from the center's office on 7th Street in Estate Thomas to the Post Office and on toward Roy L. Schneider Hospital. She said the walk will cross the intersection at the Lockhart Shopping Center.
"That should be an adventure," she said, speaking about the heavy traffic in the area.
The St. Croix education event begins at 10 a.m. Friday at Flamboyant Gardens. Brownlow said Thursday that the location was picked because it has problems that include access ramps that go off into the bush and rugged paths.
"There are several things that can be corrected and highlighted," she said.
The walk goes to the nearest bus stop and back to the Barren Spot shopping center.
She said she hopes that public officials will notice the difficulties faced by blind and vision-impaired residents, so they can fix the problems.
"We have officials who just ignore these things," she said.
She said that blind and vision-impaired people face many obstacles in the territory, including drivers that fail to stop at crosswalks or stop right in the crosswalk; broken or uneven sidewalks; and plants and bushes that intrude on sidewalks.
When cane users are forced to walk in the street because of these sidewalk issues, they encounter potholes, poorly covered drains, unfinished road repair and impatient motorists.
Brownlow said the number of people with diabetes-related blindness and low vision is growing across the territory, thereby increasing the need for awareness on the part of government officials and residents.
"We're encountering a lot of apathy," she said.
Brownlow said that when the Americans with Disabilities Act passed 16 years ago, the law was expected to improve access for people with disabilities. She said that has not happened.
"The plight of those persons will be demonstrated as they walk in the neighborhood in an effort to signal the need for the removal of barriers that limit their independence and impede their success," Brownlow said.
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