In 1931, George Bonham, President of the Peoria Lion’s Club, noticed the difficulty of his friend who was blind, Elmer Thomason, crossing a busy intersection. These innovators decided to try two of Mr. Thomason’s canes in an experiment. One was a heavy, hand-carved cane, painted white. The other, a hickory smooth cane, was painted white with a red tip. The white and red cane became an instant success.

Elmer Thomason, then President of the Association of the Blind in Peoria, predecessor of the Central Illinois Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, started the tradition the CICBVI carries on today of offering similar canes to association members. By 1932, the Peoria Lion’s Club was furnishing canes to individuals who were blind. The Peoria City Council adopted an ordinance giving bearers of the white, red-tipped cane the right-of-way to cross streets. Thus the currently recognized international symbol of a person with a visual impairment was born.

In honor of these innovative friends, Mr. Thomason’s historic canes remain on display yet today at the Central Illinois Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

The Central Illinois Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, formerly know as the Peoriarea Blind People’s Center until October 2013, was founded by the members of the Illinois Social Club of the Blind and the Peoria District Association of the Blind and officially incorporated on June 11, 1955.  The Center is a 501c3 corporation and was developed in order to provide vital services and support to individuals facing the uncertainties and challenges related to uncorrectable vision loss.  The Center’s goal is to educate its patrons and provide them with independent living skills, helping to optimize individuals’ opportunities to lead an independent life.

Location:     2905 W. Garden St., Peoria, IL 61605

Phone/Fax:     (309) 637-3693

Email:     info@cicbvi.org 




Tuesdays: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesday of each month: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month: 2 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Thursdays: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.


Serving people who are blind or visually impaired living in Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford Counties.