Blind Man Drives Unaccompanied

Mark Anthony Riccobono and NFB president Dr. Marc Maurer.

Blind Man Drives Unaccompanied

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., February 2011 — It may seem impossible, but Mark Anthony Riccobono, a blind executive with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), successfully navigated 1.5 miles of track at the Daytona International Speedway in a pre-race demonstration.

His vehicle was a Ford Escape hybrid that had been specially fitted with laser range-finding sensors. A computer inside the car received information from the sensors and in turn sent instructions to vibrating gloves on Riccobono's hands so he would know which way to steer. He was seated on a vibrating strip, which indicated when to accelerate, slow down or stop.

As part of the demonstration, Riccobono had to make turns and avoid both stationary obstacles and some that were thrown randomly from a van driving in front of him. He also passed the van without collision.

"The NFB's leadership in the Blind Driver Challenge has taken something almost everyone believed was an impossible dream and turned it into reality," said Riccobono. "It was thrilling for me to be behind the wheel, but even more thrilling to hear the cheers from my blind brothers and sisters in the grandstands."

"Today all of the members of the NFB helped drive us forward," he added. "It is for them and for all blind Americans that the National Federation of the Blind undertook this project to show that blind people can do anything that our sighted friends and colleagues can do as long as we have access to information through nonvisual means."

The Blind Driver Challenge is a research project of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute. See Video Here

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