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The iconic white cane for the visually impaired now comes equipped with GPS

Participants gather outside Yangon's City Hall after the annual White Cane Day walk.
Victoria Milko
Participants gather outside Yangon's City Hall after the annual White Cane Day walk.

The iconic white cane used by people with visual challenges to navigate the world around them is getting a 21st century upgrade, and more people in the Peoria area can now benefit from it.

A $12,700 grant was awarded by the Rotary Club of Peoria- North to the Central Illinois Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired for the purchase of GPS-enabled We Walk canes.

Paula Balistreri is operations manager at CICBVI.

"You know, as visual impairment affects more and more younger adults, adults that do want to keep working, this is a perfect tool for them to use and literally maintain their independence," she said.

The canes sync up with an app to not only sense obstacles, but also help people find items in stores, or catch the right bus route. Deanna Bruce is using one of the canes. She says an app that's patched into both the cane and her hearing aid helps her navigate through Walmart through spoken word.

"If I needed to know where something was or even if I didn't know what is there, then at least it's orienting me (to) what's around me," Bruce said.

The We Walk canes are expensive, and CICBVI loans them out to patrons. A larger stock means more canes can be loaned out indefinitely.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.