Braille Monitor                  May 2022

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Dan Parker and the National Federation of the Blind Make History

From the Editor: Reprinted here substantially as written is a press release highlighting the speed record broken by Federationist Dan Parker. In the June issue we will feature an article with a lot more detail, and we know it will be good because its author is Chris Danielsen. In the meantime, enjoy the news that was released to the press shortly after this historic event:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Dan Parker, a Blind Man, Breaks Driving Speed Record

Dan Parker smiles widely as he accepts his Guinness World Record certificate from the GWR Official.Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (April 5, 2022): Dan Parker, a blind racecar driver, achieved the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® title for the “Fastest Speed for a Car Driven Blindfolded” on Thursday, March 31. Parker set a new speed record of 211.043 miles per hour on the runway at Spaceport America in his custom-built Corvette, which included an innovative audio guidance system designed to his specifications. The previous record was held by Mike Newman of the United Kingdom, who achieved a speed of 200.51 miles per hour in 2014. Parker went blind as the result of a racing accident that took place ten years before, on March 31, 2012, and graduated from the Louisiana Center for the Blind seven years ago on March 31 as well. The record attempt was made as part of the acceleration of the National Federation of the Blind’s Blind Driver Challenge™, an initiative that aims to call attention to the importance of breaking barriers in mobility and to demonstrate the incredible achievements of blind people. It was sponsored by San Francisco-based zero emission self-driving company Cruise and certified by Guinness World Records official Michael Empric.

The effort built on the inaugural Blind Driver Challenge event that took place on January 29, 2011, when Mark Riccobono, now President of the National Federation of the Blind, independently operated a modified Ford Escape hybrid on the Daytona International Speedway Road Course. Mr. Riccobono navigated the course’s turns and steered the car around dynamic obstacles by following haptic prompts generated by input from the vehicle’s GPS, cameras, and LIDAR sensors.

“Our Daytona Blind Driver Challenge demonstration changed the perceptions of blindness held by society, including the perceptions that we ourselves held as blind people,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “It further demonstrated to the world that the expertise of the blind is critical to the development of nonvisual vehicle interfaces. NFB member Dan Parker has now raised the expectations of blind people even higher by independently driving a vehicle faster than any blind person has done before, proving that the combination of accessible technology and our own capacity allows blind people to safely operate motor vehicles even at high speed. This demonstration reinforces our determination to work with Cruise and other partners to make cars that can be operated independently by blind people on America’s roadways a reality. Transportation is a critical barrier faced by blind people across the nation, and we seek the increased availability of all transportation options in order to successfully live the lives we want.”

Dan Parker said: “With the help of my Federation family, my outstanding pit crew, and our partners at Cruise, I am proud to bring the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for fastest speed for a car driven blindfolded to America. We have not only demonstrated that a blind person can operate a vehicle safely but that we can do it at over two hundred miles per hour. We hope this success inspires blind people and shows the world the potential of modern technology like self-driving cars to help the blind break barriers in everyday mobility and beyond.”

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