Danny Beemer, right, assistant executive director and low vision regional manager for the Wabash Independent Living and Learning Center, talks to Tennille Wanner, general manager for the Terre Haute Convention Center , after a news conference for National White Cane Day at the corner of Wabash Avenue and Seventh Street on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 in downtown Terre Haute. Staff photo by Joseph C. Garza
Danny Beemer, right, assistant executive director and low vision regional manager for the Wabash Independent Living and Learning Center, talks to Tennille Wanner, general manager for the Terre Haute Convention Center , after a news conference for National White Cane Day at the corner of Wabash Avenue and Seventh Street on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 in downtown Terre Haute. Staff photo by Joseph C. Garza
More than 9,000 vehicles daily traverse the intersection of Wabash Avenue and Seventh Street in downtown Terre Haute, which made it an ideal place to observe White Cane Safety Day on Friday morning.

Danny Beemer, assistant executive director and low vision regional manager for the Wabash Independent Living and Learning Center, explained, "We were looking for a way to support individuals that wish to travel these downtown streets. But for sensory challenged individuals, that's a busy intersection. So we're trying to look for a better way to accommodate these individuals with audible street crossings."

Mayor Duke Bennett read a proclamation recognizing the day, adding that he is working on getting audible crossing signs installed at the intersection.

"We're not getting it as fast as I'd like, but we're moving on that," he said.

Nearly 2.2 billion people globally – and almost 160,000 in Indiana -- are affected by some form of vision loss. Each year on Oct. 15, White Cane Safety Day elevates awareness of the visually impaired and the challenges they face. It became a national observance in 1964 after the United States Congress adopted a joint resolution. Over the years, emphasis has shifted from celebrating safety toward celebrating independence and equality for those with vision loss.

"They want to be independent — they want to go to the Convention Center," Beemer said. "They want to go to Hulman Center."

Beemer has partnered with Tennille Wanner, general manager for the Terre Haute Convention Center, to make downtown Terre Haute more accommodating to the visually impaired. "She and I have had conversations about every aspect of making downtown Terre Haute accessible," Beemer said.

He is planning an Ability Expo for May 2022 at the Convention Center, which will open in April.

"We want to be one of the first conventions there, and we want to show that the city of Terre Haute is very vibrant and accommodating to people that are sensory challenged," said Beemer.

"We have a convention center that's going to be very accessible for their event," Wanner said. "With the Convention Center opening next year, that's more attendees coming downtown, more opportunities for different types of folks that are coming down. We do need to be accessible." Accommodations have already been made for more accessible crossings around the Convention Center, and Wanner said that its parking garage could expand the number of handicapped parking stalls for the event.

Federal Coffee and Fine Foods, where Friday's White Cane event took place, donated a portion of its Friday sales to the WILL Center's low-vision program.

A statement issued by the WILL Center noted, "For blind people, the white cane is an essential tool. We use our other senses to explore and understand the world around us. The white cane, in effect, makes our hands and arms longer. We can avoid obstacles, find steps, find uneven places in the sidewalk, locate doorways and much more."
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