On Tuesday, October 15th, Independent Living, Inc. hosted the 5th annual Mid-Hudson Valley White Cane Awareness Day event at its Newburgh service center, and the 1st annual Sullivan County White Cane Awareness Day event at its Monticello service center. More than fifty Individuals with visual impairments, elected officials, Lions Club representatives, family and friends participated at each location.
The goal of this annual event is to increase public awareness regarding visual impairments and the capabilities of people who are blind and have low vision; addressing some of the barriers and challenges they face both globally and in our local communities, as well as the importance of making our society inclusive for people with all disabilities.
Guest speakers at the Newburgh event included Senator William J. Larkin, Orange County Legislator Patrick Berardinelli, Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy, and Julie Cardone, representing the NYS Commission for the Blind. In Monticello, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and Scott Samuelson, Chairman of the Sullivan County Legislature spoke about the significance of White Cane Awareness Day and the importance of community education regarding visual impairments. Robert Gumson, Manager of Independent Living Services at ACCESS-VR shared the story of his own experience growing up, when he learned to advocate for himself to prevent being excluded from summer camp and other activities due to his blindness. At both centers, assistive technology demonstrations were given, and members of the support group for individuals with visual impairments spoke about overcoming challenges and the impact of isolation which so often affects people who are blind or who have low vision. The Newburgh Lions Club presented a check for $500, to be used toward transportation for members of the Newburgh-based support group.