White Cane Day gives students new understanding of blindness

White Cane Day gives students new understanding of blindness

Some students became teachers at Garfield Elementary Tuesday, in honor of White Cane Day. The holiday celebrates the blind, but the school looks at it as a way to educate others.

“We were setting up the course and we heard a lot of kids saying, ‘oh my gosh, it’s White Cane Day, this is the best day ever!,'” said Janet Carlson, an orientation and mobility specialist for Spokane Public Schools.

For 30 minutes, kids walked with canes and played beep kickball while blindfolded, which gave them a chance to understand what life is like for six of their classmates.

“Reach out, good job, square off,” one staff member told a blindfolded student. “Now remember, shoulder to shoulder, walk straight.”

Second grader Russell Winkler listened as his classmates got lost on the playground.

“So they know what it’s like for me,” Russell said. “I know how it feels for blind kids.”

Winkler knows how it feels, because he himself is blind. He let his classmates into his world on Tuesday.

“It’s sort of pretty easy since I’ve been doing it since I was little – a baby, I was born like this, so it’s pretty easy for me,” Russell said.

Some of the other students struggled Tuesday as they made their way through a cane circut, using the wall, fence and their cane to walk in a circle around the playground. Other students played kickball — they kicked the ball, listened for a beeping noise, then ran to the obstacle making the noise while blindfolded.

“That is it,” Russell said. “You do it for a half an hour.”

After half an hour, the 450 students going through White Cane Day could take off the blindfold. But for Russell, Sadie Barrett and four of their classmates, this is their reality.

“It’s very fun seeing other kids do what we do,” said Sadie, who has septo-optic dysplasia, which she says affects her depth perception.

As they helped others go through the course, they helped them understand what it’s like to be blind.

“They all were really like, ‘wow, there’s a lot to this. It takes a lot of concentration. I see now why our students move the way they do in the hallways,” Carlson said. “So it was a really good day.”

Garfield Elementary has an award-winning vision program. Elementary students in the program won the Chase Youth Award for Compassion this year.

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