[nfbwatlk] fw: Safe not sighted

Joanne Laurent joanne at blindcoach.com
Sat Mar 27 20:37:24 UTC 2010

Below is a forwarded email I read on the O&M listserv seeking support for
blind wheelchair users in the UK:
Freedom is a fundamental human right but the UK government is threatening to
take it away from blind wheelchair users. Help protect our right to freedom.
The Department for Transport is consulting on proposed changes to the UK's
laws covering powered mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs. One of the
proposals is to introduce a fitness to drive test including an eyesight
test. Imposing a vision requirement would have appalling consequences for
those of us who are blind and need to use a wheelchair; it would strip us of
our right to freedom.
With appropriate use of long canes, guide dogs and/or electronic obstacle
detectors, blind people can and do safely use powered mobility vehicles. The
assumption that good eyesight is necessary for the safe use of powered
scooters and wheelchairs is prejudice, discriminatory and utterly
I am blind and use a powered wheelchair, a long cane and an electronic
obstacle detector. I am able to independently and safely get out and about
in my local area. Being able to get around my house, go for a potter around
the village, pop to the mailbox or go to get a pint of milk from the village
shop are things that matter hugely to me. If the use of powered wheelchairs
were restricted to those with good eyesight, blind wheelchair users, such as
myself, would be trapped in our homes and robbed of our right to freedom.
That simply cannot be allowed to happen.
Users of powered mobility vehicles need to drive safely; we do not need to
be sighted. That is the message we must get across to the Department of
Transport, the National Health Service, scooter and wheelchair suppliers,
the general public and the media. To do this, we need evidence and personal
Wherever you live in the world, you can help. If you are a blind wheelchair
user, or if you have worked with any blind wheelchair users, please share
your experiences. Why is it important that blind people can get around
independently? Do you believe that blind people can safely and independently
use powered wheelchairs and scooters? If so, how? What are the techniques,
tools and skills that make this possible? How did you, or your students,
learn to use the powered wheelchair or scooter safely? Do you know of any
published research or practice reports that show that blind people can use
powered wheelchairs or scooters? The more evidence and testimony we can
gather from across the world, the better our chance of preventing the
Department for Transport from implementing this disgraceful plan.
If you are able to share your experiences, I would appreciate it if you
could also let me know whether you are happy for me to pass it on to other
blind wheelchair users in the UK, quote excerpts from it on the Safe Not
Sighted campaign blog (http://www.safenotsighted.wordpress.com) and/or quote
excerpts from it in my response to the Department for Transport's
consultation. If you are happy for me to use your feedback in any of these
ways, please also let me know whether I may include your name or whether you
would prefer your comments to be anonymous.
If you live in the UK, don't allow the Department of Transport to imprison
blind wheelchair users. Please respond to the consultation on proposed
changes to the laws governing powered mobility scooters and powered
wheelchairs (DFT 2010-10), by 28 May 2010, available online at
http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/2010-10/ and oppose the inclusion
of an eyesight test in the fitness to drive test. Tell them that we need to
be safe not sighted.
Thank you in advance for your anticipated support of the freedom of blind
wheelchair users.
Sasha Ayres
Visit the Safe Not Sighted campaign blog at
Joanne Laurent 
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
If you can't learn it, I'm not teaching it right!
 <http://www.blindcoach.com/> www.blindcoach.com
Highest Expectations Travel and Adaptive Skills Instruction for the Blind
P.O. Box 586 Ariel, WA 98603
(360) 231-4597 
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