Here's an article from the Daytona Beach News journal!

Technology helps blind driver lead lap - Racing
a.. Sunday, January 30, 2011

No driver racing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona could have elicited louder 
screams from one group of fans than Mark Riccobono.

Unknown to thousands of race fans pouring into the Speedway on Saturday 
morning, Riccobono became a hero to 400 members of the National Federation 
of the Blind. They were there from all over the country for one reason 
only -- to witness Riccobono become the first blind driver to take the wheel

in a solo trip on the track.

Several federation members compared his demonstration to the first United 
States space flight in 1961.

"He's our Alan Shepard," said GaryWunder, editor of the Braille Monitor, the

federation magazine. "We've been looking forward to this for a long time."

For the blind, driving a car represents freedom and independence, things 
other drivers often take for granted.

The federation challenged the nation's universities to take the challenge of

developing non-visual technology that would allow a blind person to drive 
independently. One team accepted, a group of students at Virginia Tech, 
working under the direction of Dennis Hong, director of the Robotics and 
Mechanisms Laboratory. The equipment was placed in a Ford Escape Hybrid.

Riccobono directs technology, research and education for the Federation's 
Jernigan Institute in Baltimore.

To get behind the wheel, he put on gloves that send vibrating signals along 
his fingers to tell him when to turn and sat on a cushion that vibrated 
along his legs to tell him when to brake or accelerate. He drove the inside 
horseshoe on the track and in a tactical demonstration, dodged several boxes

thrown in front of his vehicle and passed a van.

The long-term implications of the technology were simply mind-boggling for 
many cheering in the bleachers.

"This means a lot more to us than just the driving," Wunder said. "If we can

get all the information that's necessary to drive, what other things will we

be able to do?"

"It's incredible," said Randy Phifer, of Overland Park, Kansas, a federation

member listening to the play-by-play over the infield speakers. "I told my 
fellow parishioners at home that I'd be back to pick them up," Phifer joked.

For college student Mika Baugh of Indiana, it was "pretty neat."

Owning and driving her own car would mean she "wouldn't have to wait for the

bus in the freezing cold.

"You can't even imagine what blind and sighted people will be able to do 
with this technology someday," she said.

Sabrina Deaton, president of the Daytona Beach chapter of the federation, 
lost her ability to drive almost 11 years ago, a victim of macular 

Driving was "one of the most difficult things to give up," she said. "It was

giving up my independence."

The ability to drive opens up opportunities for education and employment, 
she said. "And, just to be able to hop into the car and take a Sunday 

If the research pace continues, Riccobono said the technology could be 
available for general use in just five years. Federation officials said they

couldn't estimate how much the technology would cost.

Riccobono said other challenges remain, especially convincing sighted 
drivers that it would be safe to share the road with blind drivers.

Copyright C 2011 The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Sherri Brun, NFBF Secretary and NewslineR Coordinator
Vice-president NFB Greater Orlando Chapter

Laughter is the best medicine, so look around, find a dose and take it to heart.
Gamers mailing list __
If you want to leave the list, send E-mail to
You can make changes or update your subscription via the web, at
All messages are archived and can be searched and read at
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the management of the list,
please send E-mail to

Reply via email to