When people ask me what my dream is for Peanut’s future, I always answer that I want him to be just like everyone else. I realize that he’ll need to use adaptive devices, but otherwise, I want to reduce his vision impairment to the level of an inconvenience: I’m going to teach him that he can do anything he sets his mind to, and I don’t want him to be defined by his disability.
I think people tend to look at what people with special needs can’t do rather than what they can. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “that’s impossible” or “they can’t do that” that people don’t stop to think what is possible if they only put their minds to it. So many things once thought to be impossible have been proved possible through human perseverance and ingenuity–human beings can fly (airplanes, hot air balloons, gliders!), we can breathe underwater (SCUBA), we can walk on the moon, we can virtually eradicate global killers like smallpox, we can travel around the world in under a day. Why should it be any different for people with vision impairments? With that same perseverance and ingenuity, blind and VI people can also do the impossible.
When you think of things that a blind person can’t do, one of the first things that comes to mind is drive. “A blind person can’t drive,” says conventional wisdom. It turns out that in this, as in many things, conventional wisdom is wrong. A blind person can drive if s/he has the right adaptive devices available.
In Season 6, Episode 14: “Blind Driving,” MythBusters showed that a blind person can drive with instructions–and, based on the episode, that the blind person may very well drive better than Jaime and Adam. Jerry Kune, the blind man recruited to test this myth, did an excellent job; it’s worth checking out the episode for this alone.
The National Federation of the Blind has also had an ongoing Blind Driver Challenge (the challenge’s Web site is at http://www.blinddriverchallenge.org/bdcg/default.asp). In January of this year, the challenge was answered as Mark Anthony Riccobono “was behind the wheel of a Ford Escape hybrid equipped with nonvisual technology and successfully navigated 1.5 miles of the road course section of the famed track at the Daytona International Speedway.”
In this case, the blind person drove the car all by himself with adaptive technology. While the new technology is not yet widely available, who knows where it will be in 14 or so years, when Peanut’s ready to get his first driver’s license?
People who are legally blind already drive every day with the aid of devices such as bioptic telescopes (you can get some general information about bioptics here). My uncle has a pair, and I can personally attest that he is a fantastic driver (I’d rather ride with him than many sighted drivers I know!). Who’s to say that in a few years time, it won’t be every bit as common to see “totally” blind drivers on the roads with their own nonvisual devices?
Since a blind person can drive with the right adaptive equipment, who’s to say that anything’s impossible? Clearly, with enough perseverance and ingenuity, a blind or visually-impaired person can accomplish the same things that a sighted person can; with enough time and hard work, everything is possible.