Friday, October 17, 2014

White Can Walk

The Oklahoman – News


People without sight urge driver care

Jay Doudna has almost been hit by a car about five times — that he knows of.

He has been hit once, white cane in hand.

“I remember going on his hood, and then, I was impacted into a driveway,” Doudna said. “That was the night I spent in the hospital, but nothing broke, thank goodness.”

These experiences aren't uncommon for Oklahomans with visual impairments.

When a car struck his wife Elaine's white cane as she crossed May Avenue, the driver didn't stop to apologize or see if she was OK.

That's one of the reasons that the Doudnas joined about 40 Oklahomans for White Cane Safety Day in Bricktown on Wednesday. Many of the group members used white canes or dog guides to help them anticipate their next steps as they walked along the city streets.

Vicky Golightly, secretary of the Heartland Council of the Blind, said the event helps the public realize that people who are blind or visually impaired are active in the community, working and raising families just like everyone else.

“We just have to use other tools to cross the streets and do everything that they do, and I just want people to realize that we want to be integrated into society just like everyone else, and we really are,” Golightly said.

About 110,000 Oklahomans have vision difficulties and may be potential white cane or dog guide users, according to figures from the state Rehabilitation Services Department.

For Doudna, his white cane helps give him more confidence.

Doudna has been partially blind since he was 5. He has about 10 percent of his vision in his right eye and no vision in his left eye.

“The people, if they see the cane, they're a little more aware of me,” Doudna said.

On a recent morning, Doudna took his usual route to work, walking through a grocery store parking lot to the bus stop.

There aren't sidewalks along Meridian Avenue near where he lives, so this is his only option until the city completes renovations in the area.

“I'm going to hope that that guy is going to stop because of the cane,” Doudna said, looking over at an SUV driving toward him. “Elaine says I shouldn't rely on that because there's more and more people texting now and not paying attention.”

At a glance

Oklahoma law

Under Oklahoma law, only blind people may carry white canes with or without red tips, which are universally recognized as mobility aids for people with vision impairments, according to the state Department of Rehabilitation Services. 

Oklahoma law requires drivers to completely stop their vehicles 15 feet away from pedestrians who are visually impaired and identified by their use of white canes with red tips or dog guides. 

People who violate this law are guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to three months, or a $100 fine, or both. 

The same law protects people who are deaf or hard of hearing using signal dogs identified by bright orange collars and those with physical disabilities using assistance dogs. 

Source: Oklahoma Rehabilitation Services Department