Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center celebrated White Cane Safety Day with Mobility Challenge Without Sight on Oct. 19.
Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center's plan to hold its first-ever Mobility Challenge Without Sight through downtown Sarasota may have been thwarted by rain, but it was still able to raise awareness about White Cane Safety Day on Oct. 19.
Each year on Oct. 15 marks White Cane Safety Day that recognizes and celebrates the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired while touting the white cane, which is the symbol of blindness and tool of independence.
Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center is a nonprofit based out of Manatee County that works with nearly 500 people in its vision rehabilitation center each year. The center focuses on helping people with vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses or surgery by teaching adaptive techniques to do basic everyday tasks such as brushing their teeth, cooking or making coffee.
This year, Lighthouse planned an hour and a half walk through downtown Sarasota where participants would stop in local businesses to compete in the challenges such identifying currency and testing their skills in navigating without sight.
Due to poor weather conditions, the walk was moved inside Selby Library and transformed into a station-based challenge where participants learned how to write a letter in braille, walk up and down stairs with a white cane, and how to read a menu with an app, among other challenges.
"We're trying to bring people out to experience what it's like to use a white cane to put on funny looking goggles that simulate a vision impairment and just try it for yourself," said Lisa Howard, chief executive officer of Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center.
Putting on a pair of goggles, one almost immediately becomes disoriented. Each pair had a different blurred effect to allow participants to step into the shoes of a person with vision loss. Children as young as 3 years old slipped on a pair and attempted to move around without bumping into chairs. Some of the older participants learned how to find the exact change to make $1.75 with a phone app.
Teams of around five people moved from station to station, donning goggles that mimicked conditions such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, which is the most common vision loss condition, according to Howard.
But, overall, the experience tried to help bridge that gap of understanding between those of us who walk without a white cane or guide dog, and those of us who do.