Name: Amy Mehaffey
The City of Nacogdoches and Stephen F. Austin State University have teamed up to provide a visual impairment training for all Public Works staff on August 3, 2016.
The training will be for City of Nacogdoches staff from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. This training will give city employees a better understanding of how pedestrians who are visually impaired utilize our streets and sidewalks, and ways to provide proper assistance.
Cary Walker, Public Works Manager, was inspired to find out more about this topic and accommodations needed for our citizens when he noticed SFA students walking under blindfold in the downtown area, accompanied by instructors, and using long canes as part of this hands-on course for the SFA Orientation and Mobility (O&M) program.
After contacting SFA, Walker coordinated with DJ Dean, clinical instructor in the Visual Impairment/Orientation and Mobility Program, to plan this upcoming training session. SFA provides O&M training at the undergraduate and the graduate level, with graduates from both programs equally qualified and able to sit for the national certification examination. SFA is proud to offer the only undergraduate Orientation and Mobility program in the nation.
“The students use the canes to identify different textures on the sidewalks and pavement around downtown Nacogdoches. It is important for the City of Nacogdoches to be aware of how individuals with visual impairments use our streets and sidewalks,” Walker said. “This is simply a way for our employees to be better acquainted with the various needs of our citizens when we look forward to new construction projects and when making daily street repairs and improvements.”
“It’s important to be aware of these individuals and of how they are getting around so we can make it as accessible as possible for them to travel. Individuals with visual impairments don’t typically drive, and therefore rely on pedestrian travel or public transportation,” says Dean.
Newly constructed curb ramps at street or driveway crossings are now required to have tactile strips that alert vision impaired pedestrians they are about to enter an area with vehicle traffic. Unfortunately, most of our City of Nacogdoches streets are much older and do not incorporate tactile surfaces making it hard for those with limited or no sight to cross an intersection. Learning the safest way visually impaired individuals move around will allow Public Works employees to implement changes making traveling safer and easier for all pedestrians.
Dean expressed how important it is for Nacogdoches to be accessible, not only for individuals with visual impairments, but for all citizens with disabilities. This concept coincides with the public outreach portion of the SFA Visual Impairment/Orientation and Mobility Preparation (VIP) program’s code of ethics.
According to the code of ethics, “The O&M Specialist will contribute to community education by defining the role of O&M in the community, by describing the nature and delivery of service, and by indicating how the community can be involved in the education and rehabilitation process.”
“We are looking forward to doing the hands-on training to put ourselves in the shoes of individuals with visual impairments,” Walker said. “This will without a doubt, help our staff in being more aware of the needs of our citizens and more proactive in constructing walkable areas for those who utilize our streets and sidewalks most.”