Blind Driver Challenge
I’ve been pretty fortunate to witness some great events in my lifetime – but on Saturday, January 29, 2011, at 11:30am, being present for the first blind driver to go around the Daytona Speedway was the best of them all.
I was surrounded by about 300 very enthusiastic National Federation of the Blind/Blind Driver Challenge event supporters, and a gathering crowd of Daytona race fans.
On Saturday, none of that seemed to matter. It felt like the moment was everything, and that a blind person would be driving a car for the first time in history on one of the world’s largest driving stages, and I’d be there with 300 other people who are blind to bare first-hand witness. Once the announcer began, I distinctly felt a rush of excitement. Over the speedway loud system, the announcer broadcast each step of the driver’s progress, from key receipt to driver prep to the slow journey around the track. The once energetic, boisterous, and loud assembled audience, was now dead silent – as if any noise might disturb the blind driver, who of course wasn’t at all close enough to hear. Once the blind driven car successfully completed the lap, a thunderous cheer like I’ve never heard before rose from the group. It was “blind” pandemonium!
Yes, this was a very calculated and structured drive under particular conditions. Yes, the speed was slow and measured. And, yes, it was just the initial and first step towards a person who is blind being able to independently operate an automobile. But it was dramatic, inspiring, and allowed us all to take an encouraging peak at what the future of being blind might be like.
– Kevin Daniel, Inland Northwest Lighthouse Executive Director