Quiet hybrid cars pose risks for blind
Hybrid vehicles might reduce pollution and improve mileage, but they make it tough for blind people to get around, says Mitch Pomerantz, American Council of the Blind president.
He said hybrid cars are too quiet and that the blind need the sound of a car engine to cross streets.
His 21,000-member organization is advocating a study by the auto industry and U.S. Transportation Department with blind people to determine some kind of sound that can be used on hybrid cars to help the blind, he said.
Pomerantz addressed the Hawaii Association of the Blind's annual convention earlier this year at the Pagoda Hotel and discussed in an interview some key issues facing the blind.
He said blind and visually handicapped people "are not getting jobs at any better rate than 20 years ago. There are so many misconceptions and stereotypes around for blindness. People don't realize what they are capable of in the job market."
Technology is increasing to help the blind communicate, read, listen to books or music and find their way with global positioning devices, he said.
But he said too many blind people cannot afford high-tech devices that can help them.
Pomerantz, who lost his sight at age 11 because of glaucoma, said the American Council of the Blind is advocating:
» Changing the shape or color of money so blind people can tell denominations apart. The national council filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury that was upheld in U.S. District Court and is in the appellate court in Washington, D.C., Pomerantz said.
» More funding for the National Library Service for Blind and Physically Handicapped to develop more books and flash cards that fit into a palm-sized digital talking book machine. Funding for the service was cut by $7 million this year.
» More TV programs with descriptive service, which provides narratives and describes characters during silences.
» Promotion of coupons for converter boxes to help blind people who will lose TV service in February, including the descriptive service, when digital TV replaces analog broadcasting.
Options could be to cut corners or make bills in different sizes or colors, since most legally blind people have some vision, he said.