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Tampa’s White Cane Awareness Day walk a reminder to motorists

Friday’s annual walk is to raise awareness of visually-impaired pedestrians carrying the white cane, a tool that helps them navigate around obstacles.
Sighted and visually impaired walkers participate in the White Cane Walk in 2017, to remind motorists to use caution around and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians carrying the white cane, a tool that helps them navigate around obstacles in their path. [Courtesy of Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind]
Published Oct. 10

TAMPA — If it is too hot Friday, Christine Scourtes said she may turn around early, but she does plan to join scores of people from the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind in the annual White Cane Awareness Day walk.

Scourtes, who turns 95 next week, has coped for 10 years with macular degeneration, which has greatly impaired her vision. She goes to a water aerobics workout four or five days a week and spends a lot of time out with friends, shopping, attending church meetings, going to lunch. She said she might not be on the go quite so much if she could still see to read, a favorite pastime.

“It affects every facet of your life,’’ she said.

Christine Scourtes, 94, said she plans to join scores of people from the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind in the annual White Cane Awareness Day walk. She has coped for 10 years with macular degeneration. [Courtesy of Mary D. Greacen]

While she doesn’t use a white cane or a guide dog, she wants to join in on the walk along Platt Street, Willow Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard Friday to show support for the cause. She said the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind has helped her immensely.

“They teach you how to live independently, how to cut meat, use the microwave and stove — they teach you how to take care of yourself without having to have a keeper,’’ she said.

At about 12:15, about 100 visually impaired people are expected to take part in the White Cane Awareness Day walk, an event that is officially recognized nationally on Oct. 15. Its purpose is to remind motorists to use caution around and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians carrying the white cane, a tool that helps them navigate around obstacles in their path.

They will leave from the Lighthouse, 1106 W. Platt St., and walk on the sidewalk west to Willow Avenue, where they will turn north and continue under the Selmon Expressway and across Cleveland Street to Kennedy Boulevard. They will turn right and gather at the fire station nearby, where they will continue to hoist signs for passing motorists before returning by the same route to the Lighthouse.

Sheryl Brown, longtime executive director of the Lighthouse for the Blind, said that current and former clients have been invited to participate. They’ll first be treated to a hot dog and hamburger cookout at the Lighthouse starting at 11 a.m. After the walk, they will return for an ice cream party. About 20 volunteers will be on hand to help, and the Tampa Police Department bicycle squad will be along to protect the procession.

Scourtes said that while the shots she takes every six weeks will not restore her eyesight, they do slow the progression of vision loss so that it doesn’t seem that different from month to month.

“I still live in a world that’s all blurry,’’ she said, “but at least I can see to walk.’’

Oct. 15 was declared White Cane Awareness Day by a joint resolution of Congress, at the urging of the National Federation of the Blind, in 1964.


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