Padmashri Bertha wants importance of white canes highlighted
SHILLONG: Padmashri Bertha Dkhar has suggested the District Transport Officer (DTO) and the driving schools to start a curriculum to highlight the significance of white cane for visually impaired and for people who are wheelchair-bound.
Expressing concern over the negative aura from people towards Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), she said, “When I walk on my own, I get negative remarks from people who sometimes push and kick the cane. It would be good if people were made aware,” adding that traffic rules are not adhered to, even in the zebra crossing. Stating that she has been a white cane user for 20 years, she pointed out the dire need for motorable roads.
It may be mentioned that White Cane Safety Day is observed every year on October 15.
Rinalin Nongdhar, who is wheelchair-bound, lamented that footpaths are not PwD-friendly. She said she has to take to the main road and would sometimes ask people for help.
Executive Director of Bethany Society, Carmo Noronha, said that 60-70 per cent of government buildings are accessible to the PwDs. “But then, it is not an excuse for new government buildings to not be accessible,” he said, adding that for existing government buildings’ retrofitting is expensive.
Reminiscing the days when traffic would be less, she said she would walk from Jaiaw to Motphran and from there take a cab to Laitumkhrah. “It is not possible to do that anymore because roads were not crowded back then and it was much disciplined where traffic rules were also observed,” she rued.
Bertina Lyngdoh, who also happens to be visually impaired, said the discovery of white cane has been a sine qua non to the visually impaired.
“I have been using white cane for many years now and I am independent because of white cane. I can go to new places, new areas and new locations. White cane symbolises blindness but in reality it means that we can see the world using a white cane,” she said.
Stating that the white canes give the visually impaired confidence, she said, “It has its own part in our life”.