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Blind citizens concerned with street safety

Speaking at the Albany ARC Center for the Blind, City Commissioner Ivey Hines tells of how the visually impaired can achieve success in almost any field. The group also discussed everyday challenges faced by blind people, especially the dangers of traffic.

Speaking at the Albany ARC Center for the Blind, City Commissioner Ivey Hines tells of how the visually impaired can achieve success in almost any field. The group also discussed everyday challenges faced by blind people, especially the dangers of traffic.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Some 25 blind and visually impaired people gathered Tuesday at the ARC Center for the Blind, 1500-B Gillionville Road, to hear Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines and to talk about some problems each of them face on a daily basis.

Hines, who is nearly blind from retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disorder, began by firing up the group, holding out his success in education, business and local politics as proof success is possible for the blind.

"One of the keys," Hines said, "is to be around positive people. If you want to work, be around those who work. If you want to make good grades, hang around with people who have them. If you want to have money, find someone who has a lot of it. Maybe they can show you how to get it. And remember that just because someone is sighted it doesn't mean they can do things better. You can do anything you want to do."

Hines laid out a simple formula for success at almost anything attempted:

"Preparation plus opportunity equals success," Hines said. "But you have to understand you can't turn that around. You can't wait for the opportunity and add the preparation to it. People will tell you they don't want to wait."

Hines advised those present to be as self-sufficient as practical, saying that when he came to be a commissioner, no one was quick to offer him any type of help until he asked.

"People don't mind helping you out for two or three times. After that it becomes a bother to them. On the other hand, you shouldn't be too proud to ask for help. Everybody needs some help sometimes. There's nothing proud about breaking your arm."

Later in the presentation, some of the members discussed with Hines and among themselves everyday problems of those who are sight impaired, including the tendency of many motorists to disregard the blind, even if they are walking with white canes. Hines said he was unaware whether there was city ordinance giving special consideration to those with canes.

"I do believe it's state law, though," Hines said, "and if it is, it doesn't matter if Albany has (the law)."

An elderly man with sight impairment said he regularly experiences difficulty crossing the intersection at Jackson Street and Oglethorpe Boulevard because of the time required for him to walk across the street. The man said he has asked that the time for crossing be lengthened. The time period is controlled by a special button accessible to pedestrians or wheelchair users, the man said, but so far he's had no success. It was decided at the meeting that the matter would be brought up with Bruce Maples, director of engineering with the city of Albany, in hopes the timing can be changed.

"If you all come to the commission meetings," Hines said, "don't just one or two of you come. If all 20 or 25 of you come together, the commissioners will see you. They're listening. If you want action to take place, then you'll have to come en masse."

The Albany ARC Center for the Blind offers services and training for clients who are interested in returning to work or finding employment for the first time. According to ARC officials, participants may learn a variety of independent living skills, including preparing meals, taking care of clothing, computer skills or reading Braille.