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UPDATE: Crossing the Street Blindfolded Gives People New Perspective on Pedestrian Safety

Update: October 23, 2019

Would you feel safe crossing the street with your eyes closed?

On Friday, October 18, dozens of people experienced what it’s like to cross the street while blind or visually impaired at an event in honor of National Blind Americans Equality Day. With assistance, attendees crossed Orange Avenue in Orlando while blindfolded. Orange County Commissioner Mayra Uribe, Orlando City Commissioner Patrick Stuart, and MetroPlan Orlando Executive Director Gary Huttmann were among the attendees crossing Orange Ave. without sight.

“I wish the public  would understand that all pedestrians have the right to cross the street safely,” Sheila Young, President of the Greater Orlando Council for the Blind said to WESH 2 News’ Matt Lupoli on Friday. Another attendee, Kelly Stivers, said she had been nearly hit by a driver three times in the last six months.

“Even though the walk sign is lit and the light is red, they just continue to turn,” Stivers said. “They really don’t look out for us. It’s like they have to get there before us.”

In Florida, it is the law that drivers must stop for anyone with a white cane or guide dog. The demonstration was meant to raise awareness and remind the public to always yield to pedestrians.

In addition to the crosswalk demonstration, there was a resource fair, family activities, and a proclamation ceremony with officials from Orange County and the City of Orlando.

Ceremony speakers included: Gary Huttmann, Executive Director, MetroPlan Orlando,Virginia Whittington, Director of Regional Partnerships, MetroPlan Orlando, Sheila Young, President, Greater Orlando Council of the Blind, Mike Walsh, Vice President, Programs, Lighthouse Central Florida, Douglas Richards, Director of Community Engagement & Outreach, City of Orlando Office of the Mayor, Orange County Commissioner Mayra Uribe, Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani, City of Orlando Commissioner Robert Stuart, David Franqui, LYNX, Ted Pobst, District Administrator, Division of Blind Services, Orlando Police Department Corporal Kelvin Kirkpatrick (acknowledgement).

The event was sponsored by Greater Orlando Counsel of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind: Florida Chapter, Blind&Radio, Best Foot Forward, MetroPlan Orlando, Orlando Police Department, LYNX, Lighthouse Central Florida/Lighthouse Works.



Original story: October 15, 2019

Crossing the street in the most dangerous region for pedestrians can be a bit scary.  Now close your eyes and imagine you are blind and need to cross the street.  This Friday, Central Floridians are invited to put on a blindfold and experience firsthand how challenging it feels to cross the street without eyesight.

Blind Americans Equality Day, formerly White Cane Awareness, takes place this Friday, October 18, 11 a.m., at the Beardall Senior Center.  During the event, those willing to see what it’s like to literally NOT see while crossing the street will take a few steps outside to the crosswalk at Gore St. and Orange Ave. to cross the street blindfolded with assistance. Elected officials and supporters will promote inclusion and pedestrian safety for visually impaired people. Attendees can visit tables with family-friendly activities, assistive tech demos and safety information.

White Cane Safety should be practiced every day, but Friday the goal is to education how our visually impaired population live and work independently while giving back to their communities.  Here are a few reminders for drivers:

  • A person using a white cane or guide dog ALWAYS has the right of way by law. (FL Statute 316.1301).
  • Stop in advance of the stop bar, not in the crosswalk. Stopping inside the crosswalk may put visually impaired or any other pedestrian at greater risk by having to navigate around your vehicle.
  • Never honk your horn or give a blind person verbal cues.
  • Please make a commitment every day to slow down and watch for all pedestrians, especially those with visual impairments.

The public is invited to attend the Blind Americans Equality Day Awareness event.  Each year this event is organized to build awareness and reaffirm Central Florida’s commitment to improving access to basic pedestrian safety for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Though the name of annual observance has changed, it is important for motorists to understand the safety implications of Florida’s White Cane Safety Law.

The event sponsors include: Greater Orlando Counsel of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind: Florida Chapter, Blind&Radio, Best Foot Forward, MetroPlan Orlando, Orlando Police Department, LYNX, Lighthouse Central Florida/Lighthouse Works.

For more information, contact Shelia Young, 407-425-9200 or [email protected]

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