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Visually-Impaired Pedestrians Appeal To Drivers To Be Careful

Houstonians rally for White Cane Safety Day.

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Advocates for the visually impaired gather downtown at the Houston Public Library for White Cane Safety Day. The event included a resource fair for the blind.

 

With white canes in hand and service dogs by their side, an enthusiastic group marched through downtown Houston in honor of White Cane Safety Day. It’s an event that’s been held around the country since the 1960’s to educate people about the mobility needs of the visually impaired.

Robert Wittliff is a blind Houstonian who uses public transit. He says it works out well for him, but things can get dicey when he has to cross the street.

“Well, I had my cane run over by an SUV, right in front of the West Gray Community Center.”

Wittliff says it happened while he was in a specially-marked crosswalk for the disabled.

“And I had a crosswalk that actually told me to walk but a guy decided he needed to go though the light faster than stop.”

The visually-impaired say they consider their white canes a symbol of independence. One of those people is Jay Stiteley, the head of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. He gets around Houston with the help of a service dog.

Stiteley says blind people are trained to listen for traffic cues so they can safely cross streets, but  a lot of drivers have no idea what to do when they see a blind pedestrian.  

“They come up, they see me standing there with the dog, and then somebody starts honking. Well, is that going to encourage you to go out in front of them? But a lot of people think instead of just rolling the window down and saying ‘hey, I’m going to let you go,’ people just hit the horn and think that you’re going to know that it’s clear to go.”    

Disability advocates remind drivers that a person with a white cane or a service dog has the right-of-way when they’re crossing the street.

Thomas Piper with the Houston-Area Visually Impaired Network is appealing to drivers to put down their phones and pay attention.

“We’re not invisible. You guys are. We can’t see you so it’s up to you to drive and be aware of the pedestrians that are out there, both sighted and unsighted.”

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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