Thursday, Apr 24, 2014
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Lighthouse emphasizes challenges to visually impaired pedestrians

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NEW PORT RICHEY — Walking across busy Little Road can pose a real challenge for pedestrians near West Pasco Government Center.

Imagine doing this task without sight, Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind officials said at White Cane Awareness Day.

New Port Richey Police Chief Kim Bogart and Shawn Foster, from the Pasco lobbying firm Southern Strategy Group, didn’t have to imagine it Tuesday.

They donned thick blindfolds to block their vision entirely and then tried navigating the crosswalk using white canes. Both men serve on the Lighthouse board of directors.

Lighthouse leaders helped keep Bogart on track as he started to meander out of the crosswalk on the first attempt.

Told he walked too slowly across the street, Bogart said he felt the illusion that his stride had been much swifter.

“We could not walk that slow,” Lighthouse Executive Director Sylvia Stinson-Perez chortled with a hearty cackle as she teased Bogart a bit.

“You feel very vulnerable,” Bogart said as he removed the blindfold. “It’s confusing. There’s a lot of traffic noise. That’s unsettling,” he added just as a garbage truck whizzed past on Little Road. “You can tell just how dangerous it really is.”

“Wow!” Foster commented with a sigh of relief as he took off his blindfold on the other side of the street. He was cautioned not to drag his feet.

“What’s a little bit scary for me, you have to hustle,” Foster remarked. A blind pedestrian would have less time to get across after pausing to hear if traffic has cleared, Foster observed.

About 30 supporters of Lighthouse turned out and urged drivers to honk their horns if they know what the white-can law means.

Drivers must stop if they see a person in the crosswalk with a white cane, a red-tipped white cane or a guide dog.

West Pasco has one traffic signal with audible beeps at Ridge Road and Galen Wilson Boulevard to help pedestrians with visual impairments know when to start walking, Perez pointed out.

corth@suncoastnews.com

(727) 815-1068

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