Monday, October 27, 2008

Blind Testing

Something just happened to me and I have to share it. I was on my bike in downtown Honolulu, biking along S. King street toward KITV. I was still in the heart of downtown at Alakea and S. King. I pulled up to a stop light (on the road) just as it turned red. The pedestrians began crossing in front of me. There was one pedestrian left behind and immediately it is obvious that he is blind. He has a long white cane and was wearing very unusual blacked out goggles that covered his eyes and forehead. (It was gi-normous, with an acrylic-like face!)

One of the first pedestrians arriving from the other side let him know it's OK to cross, so he started out, sweeping his cane in a really wide arc as people scattered wildly in front of him realizing his condition themselves. He passed me just fine, but then began to drift out of the crosswalk and was heading over to the middle of a stopped bus! His cane was going to sweep under the bus and he wouldn't know it was there until he hit it!

I called over and then rode over to him telling him to come towards my voice. He stopped just in the nick of time and turned and was now walking toward me, parallel to the bus. "This is good" I thought until I saw his head heading for the massive rear-view mirror on that side of the bus. I called out frantically, trying to warn him, but he didn't respond and I cringed fearing the worst....whoosh it just missed his head! As he passed the front of the bus he turned toward the curb and found it and got up on the sidewalk, successfully having crossed the street.

The light had already turned green by this point but everyone was cool and when he was safe, traffic began to flow again. He never spoke once.

I find myself analyzing this experience over and over. Was he really blind?

I've seen blind people before and I've never seen them swing their cane in such a wild, wide arc. It was almost as if he was trying to scatter the people. He never asked for help or said thank you, (not that that is important for me, but I would think communication is key to safety in a situation like that). Despite me calling out, he took several steps until he stopped just shy of the bus. I also don't remember telling him to turn toward the curb after he had passed the front of the bus. He seemed to do that on his own. How did he know?

Here are the possibilities:
1. He is really blind. If so, I feel terrible for doubting it, and I would be concerned for his safety. He is not ready for being solo in an urban environment.

2. He is newly blind. Perhaps this was the first day he mustered up enough courage to leave the apartment and go to the corner market himself. If so, good on him!

3. His giant black-out goggles are a training tool. He may be training to work with the blind and as a training exercise he has to "walk a day in their shoes".

4. This is a TV show or social experiment to see what happens. Perhaps he could see dimly through the goggles and was fabricating situations to record and evaluate the reactions of others. There were plenty of places to record that scene from if it were so.  It would sort of explain the near misses and other behavior.

Fortunately, no matter which is true, my actions should still be the same. Help to guide the gentleman across the street. 

After he was safe and I left, I wished I had stayed with the guy and guided him all the way to his destination. Perhaps then I would have known better his condition and the truth of the situation. I guess I will never know. If anyone ever sees a TV show with that kind of set up situation, let me know.

Peace Love and Character Testing,



Malcolm said...

Rich, you did the right thing, don't second guess your actions. I guarantee the other bystanders thought your actions were justifiable.

Bolo said...


Kellie Roberts said...

The wide arc is proper cane technique when crossing a road/crosswalk. It attracts the attention of those around (mainly drivers & cyclists) so the blind or visually impaired person can more safely cross the street. In reference to the goggles, both goggles and sleep shades are used during O & M (orientation & mobility) lessons. Hope that better helps your unanswered questions. =)