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by Abigail Van Buren

Girl Is Eager to Defend Kids Ridiculed for Being Different

DEAR ABBY: Several months ago, my husband -- whose eyesight is fading rapidly -- was forced to depend on a cane indicating that he is blind. Since then, we have encountered many individuals who have no idea what a red-tipped white cane means.

We have heard people say things like, "Isn't that fancy!" or, "I love the way you decorated your cane for the Christmas season."

Abby, please inform your readers that a white cane with a red tip is not a fashion accessory or a personal whim. Its purpose is to allow a vision-impaired person to move around independently. Vision impairment also affects a person's balance. People have brushed past my husband, bumped into him and expressed annoyance because his slowness held them up.

I'm sure a "word to the wise" from you would make a decided difference. -- NANCY IN LACONIA, N.H.

DEAR NANCY: I'm pleased to help you spread the word, and you have described the situation very well. Allow me to add this: It's rude -- and can be dangerous -- to touch a stranger without permission. Not only could it cause the person to react in a hostile fashion, if he or she is blind, it could cause a nasty fall.