'White Cane Safety Day' raises awareness about vision loss

Miami Lighthouse for the Blind offers programs to help clients live independently

MIAMI - According to the National Health Survey, more than 21 million American adults experience some level of vision loss, but many aren't letting it keep them from seeing the future.

In an effort to raise awareness about vision loss, Oct.15th is designated "White Cane Safety Day."

Herb Klein spends some days looking over the art collection he's accumulated over his 71 years.  But now he sees only shapes, since losing most of his eyesight 12 years ago to macular degeneration. 

"It's like the lens is out of focus and you are looking through cheese cloth," Klein said.

He said he was depressed when he first came to Miami Lighthouse for the Blind

"Then I started to learn that there is nothing I cannot do, that everything is available to me," Klein said.

The center has classes that teach computer skills by feel, without using the mouse or monitor.  A skill vital in today's job market. 

"Just since April, we have found mainstream employment for 9 of our totally blind clients," says Lighthouse C.E.O. Virginia Jacko

Jacko came to the center to learn computer skills and mobility training.  She stayed on to be a volunteer, then treasurer, and is now the first totally blind President and C.E.O. 

"I believe that a blind person can do anything a sighted person does.  They just might do it differently," she said.

The Lighthouse has facilities for clients to arrange and compose music.  Or to learn a new hobby. 

"The people here, they live independently. They do their own cooking," Jacko said.

Klein uses a timer and measuring cups that are easier for him to read. 

"You don't need your eyes to see. You need your mind and your heart," he said.

Klein is also helping organize this year's White Cane Safety Day, which celebrates the achievements of people who are visually impaired and to remind drivers that when they see someone in an intersection using a white cane, they must come to a complete stop.

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