Unique Safety and Legal Issues Encountered by Blind Pedestrians

Thursday, October 15, 2020, is White Cane Safety Day, which provides a good opportunity to highlight the unique safety and legal issues experienced by blind pedestrians.

On October 1, 2020, Portland Bureau of Transportation put on a virtual Sunday Parkways event focused on blind pedestrian safety.  That event can be viewed here and includes a summary of current ADA safety projects, an overview of the experience of a blind pedestrian in Portland, background on White Cane Safety Day, and information about various types of blindness and the history of white cane usage and guide dogs.

That event also includes statistics from a recent survey of blind and low vision Portlanders, which found that over 50% of respondents had their white cane or dog struck by a vehicle, 30% were physically struck by a vehicle, and 36% were  struck by a bicycle or a scooter.

At that event, attorney Ray Thomas of Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost spoke about Oregon statutes that provide unique protections to blind pedestrians.

ORS 814.110 provides that in order for blind pedestrians to be entitled to those protections, they must use one of the following:

A guide dog, defined as “a dog that is wearing a dog guide harness and is trained to lead or guide a person who is blind.”

A white cane for use by “a person who has limited vision and a person who is blind or deaf-blind.”

A white cane with a chartreuse (green/yellow) colored tip for use by a “person who has limited vision and a person who is deaf-blind.”

A person using one of the items described by ORS 814.110 is entitled to the enhanced protections provided by ORS 811.035 entitled “Failure to stop and remain stopped for pedestrian who has limited vision or is blind.”  That statute entitles blind pedestrians to the right of way when crossing the roadway, whether in a crosswalk or not, and without regard to any applicable traffic device or signal.  In other words, roadway users who see a person attempting to cross the street with a white cane or dog guide must stop and remain stopped, even if the road user has a green light or if the crossing occurs mid-block.

Ray also discussed ORS 811.505, which protects all pedestrians, requiring drivers to stop before crossing sidewalks when emerging from alleys, driveways, or buildings.

As the above statistics from surveyed blind pedestrians indicate, they represent a particularly vulnerable subset of vulnerable road users.  We applaud PBOT and Sunday Parkways’ efforts to educate the public about enhanced protections that drivers and other road users must comply with when encountering blind pedestrians on Oregon’s roadways, and Ray was proud to contribute to this event.

PBOT continues its outreach on this important topic at this Thursday’s White Cane Safety Day Event.  Details are below.


White Cane Safety Day 2020 Community Event!

Thursday October 15th – 2 event time options: 12:00 – 1:00 pm or 5:30 – 6:30 pm

These online events are open to the public, please join us and share with your lists!
Both event times will cover the same topics:

-White Cane Safety Day in history

-Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s  reading of the White Cane Safety Day 2020 Proclamation

-Portland Vision Zero update & resources

-Blind Awareness 2020 projects update

-The joys of independent travel discussion: community sharing of memorable moments traveling with a white cane or guide dog

Accessible by Zoom with passcode, one tap mobile, dial by location or Facebook live. All event links are in 2 different word docs attached, one is for the 12pm Event and the other is for the 530 Event. The events have the same content but different links to access.

To join the discussion you will need to access the event through Zoom via the attachment Word documents. Be sure to open the correct doc for the time you are attending!

Just want to listen or chat comments?
Access through Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/PortlandSundayParkways