There are an estimated 1.3 million people who are legally blind living in the United States, and more than 3 million people over the age of 40 who are blind or have low vision.
Each and every day, these individuals triumph over physical challenges and limitations. They bring value, talent, and crucial perspectives to their work and interactions. They travel the world, climb mountains, and swim across channels. They set higher and higher bars for what it means to dream, achieve, and be human.
And yet, for most of them, driving to the grocery store across town still isn’t an option.
We at the Foundation for Blind Children, a Phoenix-based organization, serving people from birth to currently 104 years old with vision loss, believe there is a better way. We’ve worked with people who are visually impaired since 1952, and we’ve seen how technology has revolutionized how people who are blind interact with the world and enhanced their daily lives.
National Mobility Awareness Month, celebrated each May, is the perfect time to talk about how self-driving technology can transform the lives of blind people across the country and give them a safer, more robust mobility option.
Elevating mobility for more freedom and independence
In communities across America, the ability to drive not only brings convenience: it’s essential for traveling freely to and from the destinations of life.
Most individuals who are blind or have a visual impairment, depend on friends and family, public transportation, ridesharing, or other services to get to work, run errands, go out on the town, or visit loved ones.
In contrast, self-driving technology gives anyone and everyone the ability to travel without relying on someone else. It offers blind people the confidence, dignity, and freedom to go where they want, when they want to go there, just like everyone else.
A safer, more accessible mobility solution
Self-driving vehicles hold the potential to change the way that our roads operate and offer new opportunities for accessibility, mobility, and freedom for millions of people.
Conversations with the disability community help self-driving technology companies like Waymo inform specific technical features that address the unique needs of blind riders or those with impaired vision.
For example, features in development include:
- A mobile app that seamlessly configures with Android TalkBack, iOS VoiceOver, and others
- Audio cues and tools to keep passengers informed about the journey
- Braille labels for starting the ride, pulling over the vehicle, or calling for assistance
- Chat-based rider support available through audio inside the vehicle
We believe in a better future where we’re not only all safer on the roads and more connected than ever before, but where we are equal in our mobility options.
About the Foundation for Blind Children
Founded in 1952 by parents of blind children in the Phoenix area, the Foundation for Blind Children serves the blind and visually impaired of all ages. As the only agency of its kind in Arizona, the Foundation for Blind Children strives to serve as the community’s resource for blind, visually impaired, and multi-handicapped children, adults, and their families.
About Let’s Talk Self-Driving
Let’s Talk Self-Driving represents a diverse set of communities and interests coming together with a shared belief: self-driving cars can save lives, improve independence, and create new mobility options for everyone. Together with partners including the Foundation for Blind Children, AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and other organizations, we advocate for a safer and more connected world.
Join us in the most important conversations about how autonomous driving technology may shape the future of safety, mobility, community, and society.
National Mobility Awareness Month is the perfect time to talk about how self-driving technology can transform the lives of blind people across the country.