[vendtalk] FW: Driving Challenge Stimulated Ideas toEmpowerBlindPeople

Peter Donahue pdonahue1 at sbcglobal.net
Wed Jul 29 20:32:03 UTC 2009

Hello Fred and listers,

    Thank you Fred! I wish I was there with those kids this week. I'd love 
to try driving that thing. I was thinking of this possibility back in 1969. 
After all sighted kids grow up and learn how to drive cars so why not find a 
way to make cars drivable by the blind. Blind vendors that service road-side 
rest stops themselves or who need to reach vending locations off of the 
beaten path would appreciate that convenience.

Peter Donahue

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Fred Wurtzel" <f.wurtzel at comcast.net>
To: "'Vendor Talk Mailing List'" <vendtalk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 1:34 PM
Subject: Re: [vendtalk] FW: Driving Challenge Stimulated Ideas 

Hi Brian,

Well, if we can cause a car to be designed, we can probably start an
insurance company.  We don't simply think out of the box, we burn the boxes!

Consider the youth slam.  These kids are experiencing a world with a car
that a blind person can operate.  That is a long way from where I started.
What wonderful possibilities when we make our imaginations come true.

Warmest Regards,


-----Original Message-----
From: vendtalk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:vendtalk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
Behalf Of Bryan Schulz
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 1:07 PM
To: Vendor Talk Mailing List
Subject: Re: [vendtalk] FW: Driving Challenge Stimulated Ideas to


some of this research and theory may have some unintended benefit but has
anyone conducted a poll of insurance companies?
do you really think any insurance company is going to grant a policy to a
blind driver?
Bryan Schulz

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Kevan Worley" <kevanworley at blindmerchants.org>
To: "'Vendor Talk Mailing List'" <vendtalk at nfbnet.org>;
<al at a1foodservice.com>; <crazyog at peoplepc.com>; "Dan Whalen"
<Dan.Whalen at state.co.us>; <DhrrJo at aol.com>; <done.hudson at att.net>;
<hickey3131 at comcast.net>; <hnlhoover at acsol.net>; <jackriley07 at hotmail.com>;
<Jdmakers at aol.com>; "Jody Fitzsimmons" <Jody.Fitzsimmons at state.co.us>; "Joel

Pavelis" <Joel.Pavelis at state.co.us>; <kevanworley at blindmerchants.org>;
<pdolphins at hotmail.com>; <ppichardo at adelphia.net>; <rick_penny59 at msn.com>;
<rotweilers2007 at comcast.net>; <srightsell at juno.com>;
<stevedmasters at aol.com>; <tattoad at msn.com>; <tim.poole at state.co.us>;
<vendcrew at msn.com>; <wsclinton at peakpeak.com>;
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 11:31 AM
Subject: [vendtalk] FW: Driving Challenge Stimulated Ideas to Empower

Many of my friends contribute to the Imagination Fund of the National
Federation of the Blind, which I chair. NFB President, Dr. Marc Maurer, has
maintained that we the blind can collaborate with sighted engineers to
create dynamic, useful technologies for the blind and sighted alike. Some of
the dollars we raise through your kindness and generosity not only provide
funding for programs for seniors who are low vision or getting Braille in
the hands of blind kids; they help us break down stereotypes and create
possibilities rarely, if ever, imagined. I'm sending you an example of what
you help us accomplish, with my thanks.


From: Freeh, Jessica [mailto:JFreeh at nfb.org]
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 6:07 AM
To: Alpidio Rolon; Amy Buresh; Anil Lewis; Art Schreiber; Beth Rival; Bob
Kresmer; Carl Jacobsen; Cathy Jackson; Charlene Smyth; Christine G. Hall;
Dan Hicks; Daniel Burke; Don Galloway; Donna Wood; Elsie Lamp; Frank Lee;
Franklin Shiner; Fred Schroeder; Fred Wurtzel; Gary Ray; Gary Wunder; J.W.
Smith; James Antonacci; James Broadnax; Jennelle Bichler; Jennifer Dunnam;
Joe Ruffalo; John Batron; John Fritz; Joyce Scanlan; Ken Rollman; Kevan
Worley; Marie Johnson; Mary Willows; Matt Lyles; Matt Lyles; Melissa
Riccobono; Michael Barber; Michael Freeman; Mika Pyyhkala; Nani Fife; Pam
Allen; Parnell Diggs; Patti Chang; Richard Bennett; Richard Gaffney; Ron
Brown; Ron Gardner; Sam Gleese; Scott LaBarre; Selena Sundling-Crawford;
Terri Rupp; Tommy Craig
Subject: Driving Challenge Stimulated Ideas to Empower Blind People

 <http://abcnews.go.com> ABC News

Retrofitted Car Puts Blind Drivers Behind the Wheel

Laser Range Finder, Voice Software and Vibrating Vest Help Blind Drivers


July 27, 2009-

Without sight since birth, Wesley Majerus never imagined he'd have the
chance to drive <http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Technology/story?id=1767392>  a
car on his own.

"On my 16th birthday, I was kind of bummed. But you realize it's one of
those things you can't change," he said. "You adapt to the techniques of

But, earlier this month, the 28-year-old access technology expert for the
National Federation of the Blind became the first blind
<http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=7175736>  person to drive a vehicle
that does not require sight.

Designed by a team of students at the Virginia Tech College of Engineering,
the retrofitted four-wheel dune buggy uses laser range finders, voice
command software
<http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/PCWorld/story?id=7390010%20>  and other
sensory technologies that help blind drivers navigate.

"At first, I was kind of nervous," Majerus said. "But once I got the hand of
how it all worked, it was liberating."

The car was developed in response to a challenge issued to university
students by the National Federation of the
<http://www.nfb.org/nfb/Jernigan_Institute.asp>  Blind's Jernigan Institute
in 2004. Virginia Tech answered the call with a proposal in 2006 (the lone
university to do so) and received a $3,000 grant to launch the project.

Multisensory Interface Provides Non-Visual Cues

Under the guidance of Dennis Hong, a mechanical engineering and robotics
professor, nine undergraduates designed and constructed the car.

Inspired in part by technology that powers autonomous vehicles (cars that
navigate without drivers), Virginia Tech's Blind Driver Challenge Team
designed a multisensory interface that scans the environment for obstacles
and gives the driver non-visual cues.

For example, a vest worn by the driver vibrates on one side when the driver
needs to slow down and shakes entirely when the driver needs to come to a
complete stop.

The laser range finder, connected to the steering wheel, uses a laser beam
to determine the car's distance from the edge of the road and other objects.
As the driver accelerates the car, a voice tells him how far to turn the
wheel by indicating the number of "clicks" he must make. One click
corresponds to about five degrees.

Hong said that while the project is intended to help the blind, the
applications could extend to the entire population.

Technology Could Have Non-Driving Applications

"I get a lot of questions from people about why we are doing this," he said.
"There are immediate applications, of course, the car, for people who are
blind. But the spinoff potentials are huge."

Non-visual cues could be used as advanced warning systems inside regular
cars for sighted people to encourage safer driving, he said.

The technology could also have non-driving applications for the blind.

Greg Jannaman, the project's team leader who just graduated from Virginia
Tech, said he has been flooded with e-mails from people around the world
suggesting different uses for their technology.

A blind woman e-mailed him about the possibility of fitting her walker with
technology that would help her navigate city traffic more safely.

Someone else suggested using the vibrating vest and laser range finder to
help low-vision farmers operate machinery in the field.

"[It's] a redundant system to help improve the quality of life," the
22-year-old Jannaman said.

Top Inconvenience for Visually Impaired: Transportation

Though it's just the first step, Jannaman said that the project expands the
potential for blind drivers and helps change the public perception that
their hope is an impossibility.

"The fundamental aspect of it is to raise awareness for the possibility of
something so ground-breaking," he said. "You can imagine the public response
-- sighted drivers see it as unnecessary. ... But not to [the blind]. To
them, it's something that should have been done a long time ago."

Roger <http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=8170404>  Keeney, a
62-year-old Georgia man, agrees.

For about 25 years of his life, he could hit the road on his own. But since
a farming accident in 1990 took his sight, he has had to rely on friends,
family and public transportation to get around.

"After you work through the problems of being blind, you realize that
blindness is not a disability, it's an inconvenience," he said. "And the top
three inconveniences are transportation, transportation, transportation."

In May, after responding to a campaign from the Ford Motor Co. timed to the
launch of its 2010 Mustang, Keeney had a chance to face his frustration and
reclaim independence. The "10 Unleashed" campaign asked consumers to submit
their "Mustang dream experiences." Keeney wrote about his desire to drive
again and was one of 10 chosen to live out their fantasies.

Public Perception, Laws Need to Change

As racecar driver Tommy Kendall told him when and where to turn, Keeney
zipped around a racetrack in Phoenix, sometimes hitting 90 mph.

"It was bringing back memories from 30 years ago. Memories I didn't expect
were still there," he said. "It was a dream to drive."

Not only was the experience personally satisfying, he said it underscored
the need for both the blind and the sighted to witness and experience "the

With respect to Virginia Tech's advances, he said, "I would love to go the
whole direction. I would like to see it available in a way we could
honestly, independently travel, drive, get from point A to point B.

"However, it's going to take a while for society to accept that," he
continued. "They're going to have to see these technologies work in the real
world before they come out of their fear shell and let a blind person drive
on their own."

And changing that public perception is part of the reason the National
Federation of the Blind's Jernigan Institute launched the initiative in the
first place.

Driving Challenge Stimulated Ideas to Empower Blind People

"One of the biggest problems with stimulating innovative technologies is the
public misconception that blind people are sighted people who are broken,"
said Mark Riccobono, the Jernigan Institute's executive director. "This was
a way to stimulate the brightest thinkers and the brightest engineers to
think about technology that empowers blind people to be independent."

Although he was impressed with Virginia Tech's vehicle, he said the big
victory was the shift in their thinking. Instead of constructing a
computer-led car that just transported a blind person, the team created a
vehicle that allowed the blind driver to take in information and make their
own decisions, he said.

And, ultimately, he said that shift will lead to greater benefits for all.

Technology that doesn't assume sight doesn't only help the blind, he said.
For example, touchscreen control panels in cars aren't just obstacles for
blind people, they're also unsafe for the sighted, as they require the
driver to pull his eyes from the road to see what he's doing.

Physical buttons that rely on the sense of touch would be a better design
for everyone, he said. Although it might be easier for a sighted driver to
look at the buttons to manipulate them, if he needed to change a control
while driving, he could still feel his way around instead of looking away
from the road.

In the same way, he continued, a dynamic steering wheel that gives a driver
more than just visual cues could further enhance on-the-road safety.

"We have the potential to pull society away from this idea that vision is a
requirement for success. Why aren't we thinking multisensory?," he asked.
"As we create this technology, this interface for the car, there will be
applications for everyone."

Copyright © 2009 ABC News Internet Ventures

John G. Paré Jr.
Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland  21230
Telephone:  (410) 659-9314, ext. 2227
Cell phone:  (410) 917-1965
Fax:  (410) 685-5653
Email:   <blocked::mailto:jpare at nfb.org> jpare at nfb.org

There is a Braille literacy crisis in America.

You can be part of the solution.

=-1&storeId=10001&catalogId=10001&identifier=4000> Buy the Louis Braille
Bicentennial Silver Dollar now!


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