Yesterday marks a significant day for the Disability Sector in Fiji and around the globe as we celebrate the International White Cane Day for persons who are blind or visually impaired. The day is celebrated annually on the 15th of October around the globe.
International White Cane Day celebrates the achievements of persons who are blind or visually impaired. A white cane is an important mobility tool for such people as well as the symbol of their independence. Canes have been used by persons who are blind for centuries, but the white cane was introduced in the early 20th century. Canes were painted white to be more easily visible.
One of the main objective of the day is to educate our communities about blindness and how the visually impaired can live and work independently while giving back to their communities. In acknowledging the achievements through the abilities and successes achieved by blind people in a sighted world, it is only proper to honour the many contributions made by the visually impaired community; and the important symbol of blindness and tool of independence which is the white cane.
The Fijian government has continued to show its commitment towards an inclusive barrier free and right based society for persons with disabilities. This is evident under Section 42 of the 2013 Fijian Constitution highlighting the rights of persons living with disabilities. Fiji has joined with other nations around the globe through the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). In 2018, your Fijian government continues to strengthen its domestic commitment in enacting the Rights of Persons with Disability Act.
Section 29 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2018 states the rights to reasonable access to all indoor and outdoor places, public transport and information and use sign language, Braille or appropriate means of communication for all persons with disabilities. The Fijian Government will continue to support, advocate and raise awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities, including persons who are blind or visually impaired.
As we celebrate the International White Cane Day, it is only relevant as a nation to work together in the realisation of the rights of persons with disabilities and on this special day to respect persons who are blind or visually impaired who use white cane.
As the Minister responsible for persons with disabilities, I would like to commend the tremendous advocacy that has been taking place throughout the week by the two relevant organisations with disabilities, namely the United Blind Persons of Fiji and the New Vision Fiji. Lastly, I would like to thank all stakeholders, partners, organisations, regional and international bodies for their continuous technical and funding support to organisations for persons with disabilities and to persons who are blind and visually impaired.
With these words, I wish everyone a happy International White Cane Day.