Why the white cane with the red tip?

In 1931, Elmer Thomason, a man who was blind, had difficulty crossing a busy intersection. George Bonham, President of the Peoria Lions Club and Mr. Thomason’s friend, observed this issue and 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 painted white with a red tip. The white and red cane became an instant success because it signaled to drivers to have caution as they encountered pedestrians with vision loss.

Elmer Thomason, then President of the Association of the Blind in Peoria, started the tradition the CICBVI carries on today: offer white canes with red tips to association members with the end goal of making people who were blind more visible to people driving motorized vehicles. By 1932, the Peoria Lions Club joined the effort to furnish white, red-tipped canes to individuals who were blind. As a result, 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 today at the Central Illinois Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

What’s in a name?

Formerly the Peoriarea Blind People’s Center, the Center was founded and officially incorporated on June 11, 1955 by the members of the Illinois Social Club of the Blind and the Peoria District Association of the Blind. In October 2013, the organization’s name changed from the Peoriarea Blind People’s Center to the Central Illinois Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The Center is a 501c3 corporation and provides vital services and support to individuals facing the uncertainties and challenges related to uncorrectable vision loss.  The Center’s goal is to educate and provide patrons with independent living skills to optimize their opportunities to lead independent lives.

Contact information

Location:     2905 W. Garden St., Peoria, IL 61605
Phone/Fax:     (309) 637-3693
Email:     info@cicbvi.org 

Our staff hours vary, so we recommend contacting us to schedule an appointment. Appointments can be made by phone at (309)637-3693. Please leave a message with name and number to return your call. You may also email us at info@cicbvi.org.  We will return your message as soon as possible.   

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