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October 14. 2012 9:07PM

NH Association for the Blind event promotes white cane, guide dog awareness

CONCORD — A Concord couple who made headlines across the country in August, after their legally blind daughter was asked by a staffer to surrender her white cane before entering the Museum of New Hampshire History, plans to attend a ceremony today to promote awareness of white cane and guide dog use in the state.

The Advocacy Committee of the New Hampshire Association for the Blind will host a proclamation reading and demonstration today at 10 a.m. at the McGreal Sight Center, 25 Walker St., in Concord. Amy Nichols, chair of the Advocacy Committee will present John J. Barthelmes, commissioner of the state’s Department of Safety, with a certificate of appreciation for his department’s efforts in educating drivers about the safety of blind and visually impaired pedestrians. Gov. John Lynch is expected to read a proclamation declaring today White Cane and Dog Guide Users Awareness Day.

The public is invited to attend today’s demonstration, and tours of the McGreal Sight Center will be offered.

Penny Duffy, president of the New Hampshire chapter of the Parents of Blind Children organization, reported last August that her husband, Chris, took their daughter, Abby, 8, and son, Sam, to visit the nonprofit Museum of New Hampshire History, operated by the New Hampshire Historical Society in Eagle Square. Chris Duffy said he was told by the woman taking their admission fees that Abby, who lost her eyesight two years ago and is legally blind, would need to surrender her cane before she could go in.

Duffy told the Union Leader that he explained to the woman that Abby was legally blind, and was told that she still had to surrender her white cane. He stated the woman told him, “We have had issues with kids in the past, and told me where she was putting it, so we could pick it up on our way out.”

The Duffys are planning to attend today’s ceremony.

“We will be there, but we haven’t been asked to take part in it in any way,” said Penny Duffy. “We will attend, and then head home.”

Penny said aside from an apology offered in the days immediately after Abby handed over her cane, they have not heard from museum staff again since August.

“Aside from a media frenzy after the story came out, we haven’t heard from anyone since,” said Duffy.

The right to use a cane in the museum, and anywhere else, is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The state has a ‘White Cane Law’ that says: “The blind, the visually disabled, and the otherwise physically disabled have the same rights and privileges as the able-bodied to the full and free use of the facilities.”

pfeely@unionleader.com

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