White Cane Awareness Walk 2013: National Disability Employment Awareness Month—Part 3

By Benetech, posted on

In this third installment of our blog series marking National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we’d like to share highlights from the Palo Alto White Cane Awareness Walk, in which we participated last Wednesday, October 16th.

This annual event is held each October on or in proximity to White Cane Safety Day, a national observance celebrating the ability of people with impaired vision to lead independent lives. With the white cane as a symbol of their independence, the Awareness Walk is open to all: white cane users, support cane users, human guides, walker users, power mobility users, dog guide users and sighted folks.

Last week, for the fourth consecutive year, Benetech and Bookshare proudly supported the White Cane Awareness Walk tradition in Palo Alto and we were delighted to join this celebration in partnership with the Palo Alto Lions Club, Vista Center and the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center (WBRC), the event’s host.

Four years ago, Brian Higgins—a computer access specialist at WBRC, which is part of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System—walked into Bookshare’s office and invited us to join what was to be a stroll about downtown Palo Alto. This year, the walking route was planned well in advance and close to home, along California Avenue. We registered a great turnout of over 60 participants and the wonderful team effort demonstrated by the Benetech team made my job of coordinating this event a breeze!

The walk began outside the offices of our neighbors over at the Vista Center, proceeded along California Avenue and was followed by a gathering outside Benetech’s offices, including a meet-and-greet session with refreshments. Nicole Sandlan, WBRC’s Director, and Jane Simchuk, our VP of Human Resources and Administration, welcomed the participants and thanked all the organizers and volunteers who made the event a success.

Cherie Miller, Program Manager with our Global Literacy Program, then followed with a brief overview of Bookshare and described some of the ways in which our Global Literacy initiatives help people with print disabilities live fuller lives.

The event wrapped up with WBRC’s presenting Bookshare, Vista Center and the Palo Alto Lions Club with certificates of appreciation for each group’s commitment to promoting independence among the blind and visually impaired population.

At Benetech, we’re honored to support this important cause and to help increase community awareness of White Cane Day. We also know that we’ve just scratched the surface of the need for access to books and information, and we’re continuously expanding our efforts to bring Bookshare to more people, both globally and nationally.

Here in the U.S., we’re especially focusing on reaching more veterans with disabilities. Qualified veterans who are students are eligible for free Bookshare memberships and those receiving Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment services can have the cost of a membership reimbursed through the VA. Our Bookshare library includes a special collection of books for returning veterans and nearly 2,880 books of military interest.

We also just launched our first crowdfunding effort, Bookshare for Veterans—part of the Skoll Foundation’s Social Entrepreneurs Challenge on CrowdRise—in order to give veterans the gift of reading with Bookshare. Funds raised through this Challenge will be used to enable the Bookshare team to expand our outreach so that we can help more veterans. If supporting disabled veterans resonates with you, please help us spread the word about our cause.

Finally, if you’re interested in further information about Bookshare and our services for veterans and other individuals with print disabilities, please visit Bookshare’s website.

Thanks again to everyone who helped make this year’s White Cane Awareness Walk a success, in particular to all the amazing Benetech staff members who joined the walk or helped with setting up, taking photos, contributing refreshments or chatting with our visitors. Special thanks to Cherie Miller and Jane Simchuk on the Benetech team, Pam Brandin of the Vista Center, Roger Stroud of the Palo Alto Lions Club, as well as Nicole Sandlan and Brian Higgins of WBRC. Photos from the event are courtesy of Martin Quiazon and McKenzie Erickson.