|October 15, 1970 was declared International White Cane Safety Day for the first time by the President of the International Federation of the Blind. This date was adopted at the first quinquennial convention of the IFB, held in Colombo on October 4, 1969. The object of the exercise is to stimulate the general public to a better understanding of blindness and visual handicap, and to make people more aware of the white cane as a mobility aid.
Peguilly d'Herbemont was born on 25th June 1888 into an old French noble family of the same name. In her youth she led the conventional and protected existence, devoid of great activity, of a girl from a "good family", an existence reminiscent of the life of the aristocracy before the French Revolution. She never visited a public school, but was educated by German and English governesses and convent sisters. Her movements were restricted and were mainly confined to the family positions in Paris and Belgium, but she spent most of her time at the castle of Charmois not far from Verdun.
In the process of helping individual blind people across the road, Mademoiselle d'Herbemont was made aware by narrow scrapes which almost led to accidents, of the precarious situation of the visually impaired brought about by the steadily increasing traffic on the roads. She first spoke about measures to protect the blind against street hazards to her mother in 1930, but she was of the opinion that it was unfit for a lady of good society to create a public outcry and advised her to stick to the transcription of books, a popular pastime of ladies of rank at the time.
But the idea did not leave her. The urgent wish to encourage the integration of the blind into society by providing them with a means of moving about more freely without endangering others, and at the same time attracting the attention of passers-by ready to offer assistance, caused her to take the, unusual step of writing to the editor of the Paris daily "Echo de Paris" in which she suggested issuing the blind of the Paris region with white sticks similar to those used by the traffic police.
The editor took up the idea, published it in November 1930 and saw to it that the relevant authorities acted with atypical speed. Thus it was that the white cane received official backing, and on 7th February 1931