By JB Clark
TUPELO – Blind and sighted community members gathered at Veterans Park on Saturday to experience walking blind.
Members of the Tupelo Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind gave sighted people eye shades and canes and then walked with them around the park’s walking track.
“It was kind of hard because it feels like you’re going to walk off into the grass,” said Lakecia Brown. “I learned you have to have good memory to walk blind.”
Brown’s mother, Angela Hollis, works as a driver for U.S. Land Cruiser and serves members of the National Federation of the Blind’s Tupelo Chapter.
Brown walked, with a shade over her eyes, around the track and began using other senses to orient herself, noticing the smell of burgers cooking at the pavilion where the other volunteers waited or the sound of disc golf players.
Richard Joyner, president of the National Federation of the Blind’s Tupelo Chapter, said the event helps community members know how to interact with the blind so they can be helpful and not awkward.
“We do this every year to give the public awareness that we are blind and we do have blind individuals here in Tupelo,” Joyner said. “They get to see what it means to be blind.”
Joyner demonstrated the proper technique for guiding someone who is blind. He said the sighted person should extend their right elbow to the blind person and then hold it normally once the blind person takes hold.
“Many people will tighten it or hold it into their body and drag us,” he said. “Just walk comfortably and if you come to a table or a tight area where we can’t walk side by side let me know and then gently ease your arm behind you and I’ll know to walk behind instead of next to you.”
Students from Itawamba Community College’s nursing school participated as a part of their community service requirement.
“This is probably the only opportunity some of these students will get to take care of a blind person and learn how to lead them,” said Earnest Agnew, of ICC. “If they’re in the hospital taking care of blind patient, they’ll have this much information already under their hat.”