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How drivers can work with blind pedestrians for smoother interactions

Posted at 6:16 AM, Jan 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-09 10:44:42-05

TUCSON, Ariz. - If you're driving or walking along Grant in between Alvernon and Country Club chances are you've seen a few blind pedestrians making their way around.

The Southern Arizona Association for the Visually Impaired or SAAVI, offers training for those who can't see in an effort to help them get from point A to point B without needing help from anyone.

SAAVI has programs that serve a variety of blind individuals of all ages, from children to seniors. Their programs teach students to access technology, utilize and understand braille, daily living skills and orientation and mobility.

Orientation and mobility classes include teaching blind students how to best get around and work with drivers on the road,

Leslie Barrera is a 19-year-old student at SAAVI. She is enrolled in the nine month program that is helping her get ready to go to college.

Through SAAVI, Barrera has learned to successfully navigate her way through much of Tucson, however, there are some things she says drivers do that can confuse her at times.

Barrera added that honking can be extremely confusing for blind pedestrians because they don't know if they are doing something wrong or are standing in the wrong place.

Blind pedestrians heavily rely on listening to traffic to help them determine their next move.

Joanne Gabias, a training coordinator at SAAVI, said the best rule of thumb drivers can follow is to drive as normally as possible when they encounter a blind pedestrian.

"So when you get to a street corner and a lot of traffic drivers don't realize that there's two things that you need to do. You need to know that you're standing in the right spot and you're facing the right direction," Gabias said.

Gabias added that if a vehicle stays too far back at an intersection it can actually make it harder for pedestrians to know when to cross the street because they can hear the driver is not as close as they should be.

Both Barrera and Gabias said the number one thing they are bothered by is when people assume blind pedestrians are lost. They said that if a blind pedestrian is lost, most of the time they will ask for help, otherwise they are most likely trying to listen and concentrate on where they are.