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LightHouse for the Blind SF Joins Waymo-Led Public Education Initiative

April 22, 2021

Partnered with LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired SF

Waymo-Lighthouse

We are proud to announce that LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a new partner of the Waymo-led public education campaign Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving.

Based in San Francisco, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a nonprofit organization serving the blind community through education, training, and advocacy. The organization serves individuals not only in California, but connects with the blind community nationwide and around the world.

LightHouse for the Blind is the second advocacy organization for the blind and visually impaired to join Let’s Talk, alongside the Foundation for Blind Children, based in Phoenix.

This partnership represents a watershed moment in mobility accessibility. LightHouse For the Blind has worked as an advocate for people who are blind and visually impaired since 1902, long before the first computer was built. As time passed and new technologies emerged, LightHouse for the Blind has been at the forefront of advocating for and facilitating the use of that technology so that people who are blind or have low vision can be free to pursue careers, interests and community.

Now, LightHouse for the Blind’s partnership with Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving affirms the potential of autonomous driving technology to usher in a new era of independent driving technology for those who are blind or have low vision.

“We at the LightHouse are thrilled about this partnership. Our core belief is that independence skills and humanistic technology form the foundation for success in every facet of life for people who are blind or have low vision. It’s great to be working with leaders in autonomous vehicle development who will help bring transportation to the millions of Americans not currently served by traditional automobile technology.” - LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin.

Waymo, an autonomous driving technology company and leader of the public education initiative Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving, currently offers the first and only commercially available fully autonomous ride hail service in Phoenix Arizona, and has tested in San Francisco, where LightHouse is based, for several years.

Waymo has long emphasized how fully autonomous driving technology could one day bring people who are blind and visually impaired a new level of freedom and independence by providing a mobility option which doesn’t involve relying on other people to get around.

A 2020 survey about mobility and transportation in San Francisco conducted by Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving found that 17% of respondents said they know someone who is blind, and a total of 45% of respondents said they know someone who can no longer drive because of their age.

Together with Waymo, Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving has worked to lift up and engage advocates for the blind, learn from them, and tell their stories

In 2020, LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin and a Waymo product manager appeared together on a panel hosted by Sight Tech Global focusing on what people who are blind want from autonomous driving technology. The panel touched on how autonomous driving technology can benefit from input from the blind community. For example, demand for new technologies on the part of the blind community is responsible for many of the technology innovations we now take for granted, such as voice-controlled personal assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

Waymo is continually working to make its technology accessible, such as with accessibility features like assistive in-car audio and more.