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Help blind pedestrians while you drive

Janet_labreckBy MCB Commissioner Janet LaBreck

The white cane is a symbol of independence reflecting an individual who is blind’s ability to travel independently. Governor Deval L. Patrick has officially proclaimed October 15th as White Cane Safety Day in the Commonwealth. In recognition of White Cane Safety Day, the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) sponsored an awareness program on Tuesday, October 16th at the Grand Staircase at the Massachusetts State House. I had the opportunity to attend, offer remarks, and participate in the program. I was joined by people who are blind, agency representatives, and numerous supporters to address the issues of pedestrian safety. One of the highlights of the day for me was hearing two kindergarten students talk about how their white cane allows them to be independent and do “fun” things.

Although we promote White Cane Safety year round, October 15th allows us to raise everyone’s awareness about the critical issues that impact thousands of individuals who are blind when traveling to work, going to medical appointments, going shopping, and participating in various community activities across Massachusetts. We commend the Patrick-Murray Administration for proclaiming White Cane Safety Day as it also demonstrates the Commonwealth’s commitment to ensuring that motorist and pedestrians are aware of and complying with the motor vehicle safety laws.

With the assistance of the MCB, people of all ages, receive free comprehensive individualized Orientation and Mobility instruction. MCB delivers services that enable a person to obtain or maintain independence in their home, place of employment and in the community. To further help people who are blind live active and productive lives, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 90 Section 14A indicates that drivers must come to a complete stop when a blind pedestrian with a cane or guide dog is crossing or attempting to cross the street.

At the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, we also promote the following ‘Top 10’ list of things motorists should not do when seeing a pedestrian using a white cane or guide dog at street crossings.

10. Don’t stop your car more than five feet from the crosswalk line. A visually-impaired person might think that there’s something between the crosswalk and your car if you stop so far back. The expectation for all pedestrians is that a car stops directly behind, or fairly close, to the crosswalk.

 9. Don’t yell out, “It’s ok to cross!” This may cause confusion to a pedestrian, particularly if another driver pulls out in front of your vehicle.

 8. Don’t get impatient when waiting for a visually-impaired pedestrian to cross.  If a pedestrian places a long cane into the street, it usually indicates he or she will begin a crossing.  If the cane traveler takes a step back & pulls back the cane from the curb, it usually indicates the person will not be crossing at that time. 

7. Don’t consider a ‘rolling’ stop as a complete stop.  A stop sign means STOP! 

6. Don’t turn right on red without coming to a full stop and looking for pedestrians.  The Right on Red Law requires drivers to come to a complete stop prior to making a right turn.

 5. Don’t fail to stop for pedestrians at all crosswalks whether or not there is a traffic signal or stop sign.  Come to a full and complete stop.

4. Don’t stop your car in the middle of the crosswalk.

3. Don’t pass another car that has stopped and waiting for pedestrians to cross the street.

2. Don’t wave to pedestrians who are using a white cane or guide dog to indicate that you are waiting for them to cross. They CAN NOT see you.

1. Don’t honk!

As we acknowledge White Cane Safety and promote awareness among motorists about driving when in the proximity of the visually-impaired, I invite you to visit the MCB website to find out more, or contact the Orientation & Mobility Department at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind: 1-800-392-6450.

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