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HQ 555537

August 8, 1990
CLA-2 CO:R:C:V 555537 SER


TARIFF NO.: 9817.00.96

Mr. L. Marshall Lindholm
CSP Industries Inc.
Unit #2 - 3551 Viking Way
Richmond, B.C.
Canada, V6V 1W6

RE: Duty-free treatment under subheading 9817.00.96, HTSUSA-- Nairobi Protocol

Dear Mr. Lindholm:

This is in reference to your letter of November 15, 1989, to the Area Director of Customs in New York, requesting a classification ruling for specialized walking canes for the blind under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). Your letter was referred to this office for a response. We regret the delay.


The products at issue are comprised of two different walking canes which are used by blind individuals to enable them to guide themselves while walking. One of the products is the more basic walking cane; it is lightweight and collapsible. The other product is also a walking cane, and, in addition to the normal characteristics, it contains a highly visible, high- intensity xenon light. The purpose of the light is to draw attention to the blind individual, and thus, decrease accidents of those individuals while crossing a street.


Are the walking canes eligible for duty-free treatment in the HTSUSA?


Presidential Proclamation 5978 and section 1121 of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 provided for the implementation of the Nairobi Protocol by the United States into the HTSUSA. The Nairobi Protocol provides duty-free treatment for articles specially designed or adapted for the handicapped.

Classification of goods under the HTSUSA is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's), taken in order. GRI 1 provides that "for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes [legal notes]."

The duty-free treatment of articles for the handicapped is found in heading 9817, HTSUSA, which provides for "[a]rticles specially designed or adapted for the use or benefit of the blind or other physically or mentally handicapped persons." U.S. Note 4(a) to subchapter XVII, Chapter 98, states that, "the term 'blind or other physically or mentally handicapped persons' includes any person suffering from a permanent or chronic physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, or working."

Heading 9817, HTSUSA, establishes a two-part test: (1) the articles must be of benefit to the blind or other physically or mentally handicapped, and (2) the articles must be specially designed or adapted for the use or benefit of these handicapped individuals. Individuals who are blind are clearly, as provided in the heading and in U.S. Note 4(a), within the scope of this heading. In addition, although the walking canes are not specifically provided for in the subheadings, they are specially designed for the use by blind individuals, and clearly are provided for within the broad heading.

U.S. Note 4(b), subchapter XVII, HTSUSA, which establishes limits on classification of products in this heading states:

(b) Subheadings 9817.00.92, 9817.00.94 and 9817.00.96 do not cover--

(i) articles for acute or transient disability;

(ii) spectacles, dentures, and cosmetic articles for individuals not substantially disabled;

(iii) therapeutic and diagnostic articles; or

(iv) medicine or drugs.

The walking canes are not precluded from classification in this heading by any of the enumerated exclusions in the legal note, and, therefore, are properly classified in heading 9817, HTSUSA.

An additional analytical tool supporting classification in heading 9817, HTSUSA, is examination of the Nairobi Protocol legislation. Annex E(i)(f) of the Protocol explicitly states that articles for the blind and other handicapped persons includes "aids for improving the mobility of the blind, such as electronic orientation and obstacle detection appliances and white canes" (emphasis added).


The walking canes are articles specially designed for the use or benefit of blind individuals, and, therefore, are properly classified within subheading 9817.00.96, HTSUSA, which provides for "[a]rticles specially designed or adapted for the use or benefit of the blind . . .: other." They may be entered duty free.


John Durant, Director

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