[nfbwatlk] fw: Safe not sighted

Mary Ellen gabias at telus.net
Mon Mar 29 22:24:13 UTC 2010

My father became legally blind when he was 62. Just before his eightieth
birthday he underwent unsuccessful knee replacement surgery. As a result, he
was unable to walk more than a few hundred feet. The Veteran's
Administration bought him a motorized scooter; they required him to prove
that he was able to operate it successfully, but his blindness wasn't an
issue with them. In fact, it was the program for blind veterans that
recommended him for the scooter. He used it for several years to travel from
his apartment to the nearby warehouse where his woodworking equipment was
When his health deteriorated so that he chose to move into an assisted
living facility, he had to pass a scooter test in order to drive his scooter
to the dining room and other activities within the facility. He had no
trouble passing the test. By that time, one of his eyes had been removed and
he saw very little and that little fluctuated from day to day depending on
how he was feeling and on lighting conditions.
When Dad died last year, the assisted living home commented in his on line
obituary page about his ability to drive a scooter as a blind person. That
comment demonstrates two things to me. First, most people don't expect a
blind person to be able to maneuver independently at all, and particularly
as the operator of any sort of motorized vehicle. Second, driving a scooter
going five or ten miles an hour (tops) is very different from operating a
motor vehicle at fifty miles per hour on a public road.
I wish the blind wheelchair and scooter users of the United Kingdom well in
their efforts to maintain their freedom of movement. I've posted my father's
story in the hope that it will help.
I also wonder how many blind wheelchair users are out there who could travel
more independently and don't do it because they don't believe it's possible
and the professionals who work with them and their families and friends
don't believe it, either. I'm sure that, if my brothers, my sister, and I
hadn't had a solid grounding in Federationism, we would have tried to
prevent my father from getting out and about on his own using his scooter. 

-----Original Message-----
From: nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
Behalf Of Kaye Kipp
Sent: March 27, 2010 2:31 PM
To: NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List
Subject: Re: [nfbwatlk] fw: Safe not sighted

I read that story.  It was good.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Mike Freeman" <k7uij at panix.com>
To: "NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List" <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Saturday, March 27, 2010 2:09 PM
Subject: Re: [nfbwatlk] fw: Safe not sighted

> Maureen Pranghofer uses a wheelchair and went thru BLIND Inc. She 
> wrote a
> few Monitor articles; also, she had a story in the kernel book "Toothpaste

> and Railroad Tracks".
> Mike
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Joanne Laurent" <joanne at blindcoach.com>
> To: <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
> Sent: Saturday, March 27, 2010 1:37 PM
> Subject: [nfbwatlk] fw: Safe not sighted
>> Below is a forwarded email I read on the O&M listserv seeking support 
>> for blind wheelchair users in the UK:
>> Freedom is a fundamental human right but the UK government is 
>> threatening
>> to
>> take it away from blind wheelchair users. Help protect our right to 
>> freedom.
>> The Department for Transport is consulting on proposed changes to the
>> UK's
>> laws covering powered mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs. One of 
>> the
>> proposals is to introduce a fitness to drive test including an eyesight
>> test. Imposing a vision requirement would have appalling consequences for
>> those of us who are blind and need to use a wheelchair; it would strip us

>> of
>> our right to freedom.
>> With appropriate use of long canes, guide dogs and/or electronic 
>> obstacle detectors, blind people can and do safely use powered 
>> mobility vehicles. The assumption that good eyesight is necessary for 
>> the safe use of powered scooters and wheelchairs is prejudice, 
>> discriminatory and utterly unacceptable.
>> I am blind and use a powered wheelchair, a long cane and an 
>> electronic obstacle detector. I am able to independently and safely 
>> get out and about in my local area. Being able to get around my 
>> house, go for a potter around
>> the village, pop to the mailbox or go to get a pint of milk from the 
>> village
>> shop are things that matter hugely to me. If the use of powered 
>> wheelchairs
>> were restricted to those with good eyesight, blind wheelchair users, such

>> as
>> myself, would be trapped in our homes and robbed of our right to freedom.
>> That simply cannot be allowed to happen.
>> Users of powered mobility vehicles need to drive safely; we do not 
>> need
>> to
>> be sighted. That is the message we must get across to the Department of
>> Transport, the National Health Service, scooter and wheelchair suppliers,
>> the general public and the media. To do this, we need evidence and 
>> personal
>> testimonies.
>> Wherever you live in the world, you can help. If you are a blind
>> wheelchair
>> user, or if you have worked with any blind wheelchair users, please share
>> your experiences. Why is it important that blind people can get around
>> independently? Do you believe that blind people can safely and 
>> independently
>> use powered wheelchairs and scooters? If so, how? What are the 
>> techniques,
>> tools and skills that make this possible? How did you, or your students,
>> learn to use the powered wheelchair or scooter safely? Do you know of any
>> published research or practice reports that show that blind people can 
>> use
>> powered wheelchairs or scooters? The more evidence and testimony we can
>> gather from across the world, the better our chance of preventing the
>> Department for Transport from implementing this disgraceful plan.
>> If you are able to share your experiences, I would appreciate it if 
>> you could also let me know whether you are happy for me to pass it on 
>> to other blind wheelchair users in the UK, quote excerpts from it on 
>> the Safe Not Sighted campaign blog 
>> (http://www.safenotsighted.wordpress.com) and/or quote
>> excerpts from it in my response to the Department for Transport's
>> consultation. If you are happy for me to use your feedback in any of 
>> these
>> ways, please also let me know whether I may include your name or whether 
>> you
>> would prefer your comments to be anonymous.
>> If you live in the UK, don't allow the Department of Transport to
>> imprison
>> blind wheelchair users. Please respond to the consultation on proposed
>> changes to the laws governing powered mobility scooters and powered
>> wheelchairs (DFT 2010-10), by 28 May 2010, available online at
>> http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/2010-10/ and oppose the 
>> inclusion
>> of an eyesight test in the fitness to drive test. Tell them that we need 
>> to
>> be safe not sighted.
>> Thank you in advance for your anticipated support of the freedom of 
>> blind wheelchair users.
>> Sasha Ayres
>> Visit the Safe Not Sighted campaign blog at 
>> http://www.safenotsighted.wordpress.com
>> Joanne Laurent
>> Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
>> If you can't learn it, I'm not teaching it right! 
>> <http://www.blindcoach.com/> www.blindcoach.com
>> Highest Expectations Travel and Adaptive Skills Instruction for the 
>> Blind P.O. Box 586 Ariel, WA 98603
>> (360) 231-4597
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