By MUHAMMED SAILU BAH
October 15, every year since the year 1964, is observed as World White Cane Day.
The Gambia Organisation for the Visually Impaired (GOVI) yesterday,
Thursday, observed the day with partners in the form of press briefing
held at its head office at Kanifing South.This year’s theme is “Silent vehicle towards persons with visual impairment”.
This year’s celebration was held at the GOVI hall in Kanifing, in the
form of a media press briefing on Thursday 15 October 2015.
The purpose of the day, according to GOVI, is to celebrate the
achievements of people who are visually impaired and blind,
acknowledge and pay tribute to the long white cane as a critically
important mobility tool and potent symbol of independence. In
addition, it is also to educate the world about blindness and how the
visually impaired can live and work independently while giving back to
In her remarks, Ndey Yassin Sallah Secka, Chairperson of GOVI, underscored
the importance of the day as well as the theme for this year.
Madam Secka noted that in the previous years, they have been
celebrating the day with a procession or march pass, but for this year
it is decided that they convene a press conference.
“We invited the media in order to be able to reach the people out
there concerning about the plight of the visual impaired. We could
also remember that we lost one of our colleagues on the same day as he
was hit by a vehicle and we shall never forget him,” she remarked.
She also highlighted the importance of the white cane which, she said,
serves as a guide for the movement of the visually impaired.
Madam Secka also noted the difficulty which the visual impaired persons face
when they are to cross the road.
“Drivers don’t respect the white cane and they don’t easily give
chances for people with the white cane to be able to cross the road
easily. Compared to other countries, the traffic halts whenever they
see a person holding a white cane, and we are pleading for a similar
thing to be happening in the Gambia,” appealed the GOVI Chairperson.
She revealed that they have been calling on the drivers’ union to come
on board and discuss with GOVI on how to remedy the situation
confronting the visual impaired, adding “but they hardly attend our
Madam Secka also revealed that some people do not want to use the cane
which they consider as a taboo and believing that when it touches them
it can bring ‘bad luck’ to them. She further revealed that there are
people who would want to steal the cane of the visually impaired to
use it as a spiritual charm to bring so called ‘success’ for them. “But
this should not be the case,” she concluded.
In his statement, Mamut Mboom Touray, Executive Director GOVI, said
the theme chosen for this year focuses on the issue of silent vehicle
and their effects on mobility for blind and low-vision persons.
“Shared spaces are becoming increasingly common in our communities,
where pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists use the same space for
transit. This increase complexity can make mobility more difficult for
persons who have low vision and blindness, especially when combined
with newer technologies s that makes vehicles quitter, and therefore
less detectable,” he said.
Mr.Touray highlighted that one of the greatest challenges the visually
impaired person faces is being able to move freely or crossing the
He said the blind and visually impaired persons in the Gambia, like
most developing countries in the world, face extreme conditions of
poverty, adding that they have limited opportunities for accessing
education, health, sustainable housing and employment opportunities.
“They are mostly considered objects of charity who beg on the streets
for a living,” he said.
He said GOVI and all other blind organisations are calling on all governments
and regulators to support a global technical standard that reflects
the ‘Quiet road transport vehicle’s original mandate’.
The GOVI Executive Director said he is calling on the schools,
colleges and employees in the Gambia to offer full opportunities and
in training the blind person and for the public to utilise the
available skills of the competent blind person. “I urged everyone to
open new opportunities for the visually impaired in our rapidly
changing society, and all citizens to recognise the white cane as an
instrument of safety and self-help for the blind pedestrians on our
streets and highways,” he said.
He concluded by thanking the government through the Ministry of Social
Welfare for the support they are giving to GOVI.
By MUHAMMED SAILU BAH