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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 May 2011 Issue  Volume 12  Number 5

Letters to the Editor

A Thank You to AFB and a Response to the Blind Driver Challenge Article

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

Recently, I read an article about a remarkable woman named Clara Barton. She started her teaching career as a teenager. She taught at a private school and received compensation from those who could afford to send their children to such an institution in the 1800s. She recognized there were many youth in her community who could not afford this type of education and began instructing them for free. It is estimated she helped over 600 students in this manner.

When the Civil War broke out, Clara volunteered making bandages out of sheets and towels for wounded soldiers. She was granted permission to go to the front lines. There, she prepared food, comforted the wounded, and searched for soldiers missing in action. Duty again called her to serve in the war between France and Prussia. When she returned to the United States, she established an organization known as the American Red Cross and served as president for over 20 years.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet up with a friend I met at one of the many business meetings I attend throughout the year. I enjoyed getting to know this individual more. I have a passion for travel and seeing new places, so I asked my friend to show me around his hometown. He was great with directions and pointed out the various landmarks and reviewed with me the historical context of the places I was seeing. Near the end of my visit I asked my friend a simple question, "What kind of car do you drive?" The inquiry produced an unusual look on his face and he responded, "I don't have a car." For a brief second I thought he was one of the many in these tough economic times who was trying to trim his budget. He continued, "I don't drive." He proceeded to explain that he had a form of vision loss and there were some things he could not do.

Embarrassed and humbled, I searched the internet and my medical textbooks to educate myself on his diagnosis. My friend directed me to the AFB website. There I read articles and watched inspiring videos of those who have vision loss. I was touched. More importantly my "eyes were opened," and I began to realize that perhaps many of my patients could benefit from the information I was learning. As a physician, I am not a believer that I should do everything for my patients. However, I do need to provide my patients with all the tools necessary for them to maintain their health, age in their home, monitor their conditions, and improve their overall quality of life.

Few of us will likely rise to the level of developing the American Red Cross as Clara Barton did, but each of us has the ability to learn about others. We then have the responsibility to help within our sphere to improve the human condition. To AccessWorld, the American Foundation for the Blind, and all who are associated with this organization: Thank you. To my new friend who might be reading this: Thank you for helping a sighted person see even more clearly. I am forever in your debt.

Sincerely,

TK

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

Technology can already park a car for me. Collision radar is commonplace. GPS is nearly as ubiquitous as the cellphone. Forklifts "drive by wire" in most modern warehouses. So why can't my car take me where I want to go?

Well, it is more a question of sociology than technology. The short answer is that the rest of the American public will not give up control and allow their cars to [choose] the best path, speed, and lane in order to arrive at their destinations. Americans love the control.

The accidents on American highways during each daily commute are the proof of poor skill, decision-making, and control.

As long as people are insistent on being in the "driver's seat" they will never allow[…]computers[…]to decide the details of the trip. They will certainly not relinquish the controls and "leave the driving" to the car—no matter how much safer [and more] efficient[…]the trip may be.

A centralized grid with computer controls that monitor speed, traffic, and the intended destinations is possible with the tech we currently have. The practical application of such a system is, unfortunately I fear, a pipe dream.

Regards,

David

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