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Reflections of “Near Miss” Situations While Crossing the Street as White Cane Safety Day Approaches

Crosswalk dog

Bruce Parkinson and his guide dog stand at the corner of a busy street. While they wait in the yellow bump-dot grid, a van passes in front of them across the cross walk. In the distance, the pedestrian walk signage is showing a red hand.

Any person who is blind or visually impaired who travels independently has had close encounters with vehicles when crossing streets. If you can feel the warmth of the vehicle's radiator, you have definitely had a narrow escape. With White Cane Safety Day approaching on Sunday, October 15, we share two accounts of “close calls” as experienced by board members Rhonda Staats and Bruce Parkinson.

Rhonda Staats

“I've had several close calls less than half a block from my house just mailing a letter. I live on Market Street, a major street in La Crosse. There is a mailbox on the northwest corner of 15th Street and Market. I always cross at the crosswalk when going to the mailbox. Occasionally a car comes tearing down the road in the middle of my crossing. The car hasn't hit me, but I have sometimes felt the heat from its passing. I have had other close calls, many at four-way stops, but the mailbox crossing nearly right outside the door is the most ridiculous because it is so close to home.

Years ago, I was pulling my toddler son around the block in a wagon. I stopped before I reached the dip of an alley because I heard a car backing out. The lady may not have been paying much attention, didn't back out straight, and knocked me down. I fortunately had the presence of mind to give the wagon a good push behind me, and my son and I were not injured in any way. The only thing that happened was the lady rolled down her window and called out, "Are you OK?" She kept on driving without checking. I remember this episode, as I now can give my grandson a wagon ride (on different blocks, of course!).

Any driver who gives us close calls can never be reported because we can't see the license numbers, or the color or make of the vehicle.

On my grouchy days, I wish that a driver could be in my situation long enough for him or her to realize the gravity and possible consequences of a close call situation, as it would not take much for that close call to become a "car hit me" event. I also wish that there was some magic way that drivers would become aware of pedestrian safety and the White Cane law, even though my rational brain knows this awareness is spread one driver at a time.”

Bruce Parkinson

“I’ve had close encounters with cars when walking across the street, when a driver is not paying attention and turns a corner, cutting me off as I’m trying to cross. It’s frightening when I step off the curb and someone is all of a sudden in front of me. It also happens when someone runs a yellow light and drives when I as a pedestrian have the green light and walk sign, and the car is someplace it shouldn’t be. It can happen to anyone.

During a previous White Cane Safety Day in Manitowoc, a friend and I wanted to see how drivers observe people with white canes. We both crossed streets together using our white canes, and we had a police officer in civilian clothes with us, videotaping and pulling people over who didn’t yield to us. Despite having two people crossing the street together, and the presence of an officer, many people disregarded the pedestrians with white canes. When we showed the tapes later, people were aghast at how close drivers were coming.

Another close call incident took place when I was walking with my guide dog. We were crossing a driveway, and I heard a car coming. I thought, “I’d better stop or we’re going to get hit.” There were probably four inches between us and the car. My dog didn’t see it because of a planter in the way.

When these incidents happen, I feel threatened of course, but I feel more angry than anything else. Drivers need to look where they are going. They should also know the laws. A blind pedestrian has the right-of-way anywhere, and all pedestrians have the right-of-way on sidewalks and driveways. As a driver, it’s your responsibility to watch out for people who are walking on the sidewalk and crossing the street.”

Sadly, not every incident results in a miss.

On Tuesday, September 5, 2017, multiple news sources throughout the state reported on an incident involving a 57-year-old Madison man who is blind and his service dog. A vehicle in a hit and run car accident struck them. While the man only had minor injuries, his service dog was immediately taken to a veterinarian for medical attention.

In light of this incident, the Council issued a formal statement to remind both drivers and pedestrians of Wisconsin's White Cane Law. It reads:

Blind pedestrian on highway

(1) An operator of a vehicle shall stop the vehicle before approaching closer than 10 feet to a pedestrian who is carrying a cane or walking stick which is white in color or white trimmed with red and which is held in an extended or raised position or who is using a service animal, as defined in s. 106.52(1)(fm), and shall take such precautions as may be necessary to avoid accident or injury to the pedestrian. The fact that the pedestrian may be violating any of the laws applicable to pedestrians does not relieve the operator of a vehicle from the duties imposed by this subsection.

(2) Nothing in this section shall be construed to deprive any totally or partially blind person not carrying the white or the red and white cane or walking stick or not using a service animal, as defined in s. 106.52 (1) (fm), of the rights of other pedestrians crossing highways, nor shall the failure of such totally or partially blind pedestrian to carry such cane or walking stick or to use a service animal be evidence of any negligence.

(3) No person who is not totally or partially blind shall carry or use on any street, highway or other public place any cane or walking stick which is white in color, or white trimmed with red.

As the Council prepares to continue our efforts to educate state residents about this law through White Cane Safety Day on Sunday, October 15, we felt it especially important to remind individuals of this law's existence and its importance.

 

Student Spotlight: Hunter Lemerond

hunter

Council Scholarship recipient Hunter Lemerond poses while smiling for the camera, propping her chin in her left hand. She wears a sleeveless black sundress and necklace with large circular white stones.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Everyone is asked that question at some point. For many, it is a challenge to find the answer. The answer has always been easy for Council scholarship recipient Hunter Lemerond.

“I have a passion for shopping,” she says. “My dream job is to become a buyer for a company.”

A buyer is someone who is responsible for understanding shopper analytics, what’s in style, how products will be displayed, which products will be on sale, and makes all purchasing decisions for a company.

Hunter recently started her sophomore year at UW-La Crosse and is studying business.

In addition to her passion for shopping, Hunter finds joy in helping others. She attended a mission trip during high school.

“To me, it was a huge personal accomplishment,” she says. “I knew one person, my best friend. The other 23 were strangers. Together we traveled across the country from Wisconsin to Montana. We joined about 300 more high school students. Later, we were put in a group with 4 students who were from all over the country. I was now separated from the one person I knew.”

Hunter describes how the group worked with a family who’s home had fallen into disrepair. “I remember being surprised about how rough the house looked,” Hunter says. “The fence was falling down, paint was chipping off, and there were broken windows in the garage. The couple who lived there had two young children. The best part of my days were when the children asked if they could help paint. Although we had to re-paint over it, it was so fun to see the kids enjoying themselves. We brought the kids a soccer ball, which they were ecstatic about. It was amazing seeing them get so much joy out of simple activities that I took for granted as a kid. It was so hard to say goodbye to the kids, but especially hard to leave my group because we had grown so close. The experience as a whole was so rewarding and worth the anxieties I had going into it.”

Hunter’s vision loss is due to Stargardt disease, which is a form of hereditary macular dystrophy that forms in late childhood and early adulthood. The affected part of the eye is the center of the retina called the macula, which is responsible for things like reading, watching TV and recognizing faces. Vision loss is progressive and there is no treatment or cure for the disease.

“I was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease at the age of 12 with a vision acuity of 20/400 corrected with glasses to 20/200, the point of legal blindness,” Hunter explains. “Because of my visual impairment, I am not able to drive, play sports, recognize faces, read small print, easily use a computer, and see the front of a classroom. I struggle every day in class with not being able to see the whiteboard, or read the small print in textbooks and handouts. At the end of the day, my eyes get very heavy and hurt because of the stress they go through every day to see things. Despite all the struggles that come with my visual impairment, I have never let it bring me down, or discourage me from doing anything.”

In her free time, Hunter enjoys hanging out with her family and friends, especially if it means going up north and spending time on the lake. She also loves practicing yoga, and, of course, going shopping.

 

Braille Classes Offered by The Braille Library & Transcribing Service, Inc. – Sign Up Today!

braille

A cartoon drawing of a person sits cross-legged on a circular rug. In their lap is an open book. They use the pointer finger of their left hand to read the text, which is in braille.

Have you always wanted to learn braille or are interested in helping get braille books to those who need them? Braille Library and Transcription Service, Inc. will be offering transcription class starting this fall in Madison.

The Braille Library & Transcribing Services, Inc. (BLTS) transcribes print into the raised dots of braille. Their trained volunteer braillists prepare and provide books in braille of all kinds: children’s stories, schoolbooks for all ages (pre-school to graduate school), books for leisure reading, cookbooks, knitting patterns, work-related material and much, much, more.

To learn more about BLTS and the braille transcription course, call 608-233-0222, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit their website at www.bltsinc.org.

 

Featured “Outlook From Here” Blog Post:

The Seeing Eye Dog Experience, Part II

By Chad Nelson

guide dog

A guide dog in their harness stands facing the left as its owner sits surrounded by other people. The owner has her right hand placed on the dog’s back. This particular image is not that of Chad Nelson or his guide dog Laura. It is an example of what a guide dog looks like with their harness on.

Editor’s Note: This blog was Originally published October 20, 2014 on Vision View Point, the predecessor to The Outlook from Here.

I’m looking back on my second week at the Seeing Eye in New Jersey. The week had a few challenges as well as some very funny and cute experiences with Laura.

We walked about a half mile and had to deal with cars pulling out in front of us. Some situations were staged traffic checks, while others happened with real drivers who were either just not paying attention or they were being inconsiderate. The staged traffic checks are done with Seeing Eye staff who drive around our walking route and either pull into a driveway in front of the dog or cut us off at a street crossing. They do this to check the dog to see how it and the handler respond to every possible situation. Given the short training period, it is impossible to experience every situation. A lot of it depends on the graduate and the dog guide relying on each other at all times.

After a day or two of training on the route, we had to do it solo.

Laura and I, plus another student/dog team soloed the route together while the instructor stayed back to let us work out any issues on our own and to see how we handled things. If there was a major problem, they would obviously jump in to assist.

The solo route is the same one on which we had been trained, but this time we were on our own. Everything went well, except Laura ran a street crossing. She was supposed to stop at the down curb and wait at the crossing for my instruction. Instead, she just kept walking. I realized she messed up about half way through, but, by that time, I wouldn’t make her turn around and do it over. While crossing a street, the worst thing you can do is stop and turn around in the middle. It just isn’t safe.

One of the challenges I experienced with Laura during this week happened when she decided that she wasn’t going to listen to me. I finally made her do what I wanted. The way to accomplish this is with lots of praise and coaxing and not with yelling and getting mad at the dog. Laura is a fantastic dog and an awesome worker. She makes a few mistakes, but who doesn’t?!

The biggest thing for a new student who wants a Seeing Eye dog is learning to trust the animal with everything during travel. The human half of the team has a great amount of responsibility to know where they are going and how to get there, as well as to determine when it is safe to commit to a street crossing. The dog will watch for traffic, and it is responsible to avoid cars that are in the way or nearby. The dog is not responsible for knowing when the light changes from red to green, green to red, etc.

The Seeing Eye has a 1/3 mile path that winds around campus. Students can use this to get outside when there are no trips into town. For the most part, this happens on the weekend. Other fitness equipment is located inside. The Seeing Eye has a small exercise room with a treadmill, stair climber, exercise bike, and some weight training machines.

This was a great place to be with lots of friendly and supportive staff and to make new friendships with many of the other students. In the end, it is always nice to go back home with a dog, knowing that he or she will make travel to and from work, the store, or any other destination much easier, safer and more enjoyable.

 

Upcoming Events

Upcoming events

 

Regional Transit Conference - Transportation: The Future is Now (Hosted by 1000 Friends of Wisconsin)

When:        Monday, September 25

Where:       Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center

1 John Nolen Drive, Madison

Time:         8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Local transportation policy in a time of demographic, political and technological change.

Council CEO/Executive Director Denise Jess will speak, focusing on transportation as an equity issue. She will be sharing the session with Madison Alder Maurice Cheeks. Together, they will address how accessible and affordable transportation benefits people with disabilities, those who are economically disenfranchised and the larger community, both economically and socially.

Additional subjects will include:

  • Changing demographics - an opportunity to invest in a 21st century transportation system.
  • Harnessing changing technology while retaining core community values.
  • Being economically competitive while providing equitable access to everyone.
  • Optimizing our existing infrastructure.
  • Reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment.

To register, click here.

 

Dining in the Dark – Fitchburg

When:        Saturday, September 30

Where:       Secret location to be revealed the day before! Will stay in the Madison area.

Time:         6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Join the Council as we partner once again with Vignette Dining Club for Dining in the Dark! Plan to arrive on time in order to settle in, chat with fellow dinners, and grab a nibble.  Dinner begins promptly at 6:30 p.m.

Your seat includes a fabulous 4-course meal, coffee, H20, and unsweetened iced tea. Seats are paid for in advance and are non-refundable. 

The cost is $47.50 per person and will take place at a secret location in Fitchburg. Attendees will receive an e-mail with instructions and address of the secret location the night before the event. 

To register for Dining in the Dark and to learn more about Vignette Dining Club, go to: http://vignettedining.com/the-menu.html.

 

Webinar - Providing Health and Social Services to Persons with Blindness or Low Vision

When:       Wednesday, October 4

Where:       From the convenience of the web device of your choice!

Time:         3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Respect and inclusivity, two of WCBVI’s core values, will frame a discussion about providing health and social services to persons with vision impairment. Strategies to use in everyday interactions will be presented with emphasis on giving information, getting around, and orienting to surroundings. Join Jean Kalscheur, Director of Education and Vision Services at WCBVI, and three consumers of health services in this free 1-hour webinar.

To register, click here.

 

Fall Gallery Night

When:        Friday, October 6

Where:       WCBVI Office – 754 Williamson Street, Madison

Time:         5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Mark your calendars and join us for Fall Gallery Night on Friday evening, October 6, as we proudly showcase work from artists who have vision loss. This event is in partnership with the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA).

Participating artists will display and discuss their work during the opening reception at the Council office. Attendees are welcome to browse the artwork, enjoy refreshments and talk to the artists.

 

White Cane Safety Day

When:        Sunday, October 15

Where:       Nationwide! Perhaps in your community?

Do you like bringing attention to the needs and concerns of people who are blind and visually impaired? Do you enjoy planning events in your community? Does educating the public excite you? If you answered “Yes!” to these questions, then consider planning a special event or spreading the word about White Cane Safety Day, celebrated this year on Sunday, October 15, 2017! Our White Cane Safety Day Toolkit is here to provide inspiration, examples and helpful hints as you plan for and promote this important day.

The Toolkit includes example press releases, a social media promotion plan, and event ideas. Toolkits are available in print, electronic format, or braille upon request. Contact Gale Hellpap, Communications Director, by calling 608-237-8113 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Remember that planning a well-orchestrated event can take a month or two, so request your kits as soon as possible.

 

Do you participate in a community group or activity that should be shared in this newsletter? If so, contact Gale Hellpap, Communications Director, for more details! Gale can be contacted at 608-237-8113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..