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World Blind Union and Waymo team up on public education initiative

May 20, 2021

The global organization World Blind Union (WBU), which represents millions of persons around the world who are blind or partially sighted, has joined Waymo-led Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving alongside other national and local advocacy organizations.

The partnership marks an important international step forward in the effort to raise awareness about how autonomous driving technology could help those who are blind or partially sighted gain a greater level of freedom, mobility and autonomy.

The World Blind Union is the foremost voice speaking on behalf of an estimated 253 million blind and partially sighted persons worldwide. WBU counts more than 250 member organizations in 190 countries. WBU strives to ensure that blind and partially sighted persons can participate fully in any aspect of life they choose. WBU advocates for equal opportunities, protection and promotion of fundamental human rights of all blind and partially sighted persons, to ensure that their voice is heard.

WBU Chief Executive Officer José Viera emphasized that blind and partially sighted persons want to have a choice in the way they live and get around. “Autonomy and accessibility are crucial preconditions for social inclusion,” Viera said. “This is why autonomous driving technology is an important step ahead for inclusion.”

Viera said he believes that the Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving partnership is a model for how autonomous driving companies like Waymo can work together with organizations representing people with disabilities.

“‘Nothing about us without us’ is the vision we promote and this partnership shows the way to deliver great technology features that answer the needs of blind and partially sighted persons,” Viera said. 

Other Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving partners advocating for people who are blind and partially sighted include San Francisco’s LightHouse for The Blind and Visually Impaired and Phoenix-based Foundation for Blind Children.

Together with Waymo, Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving has worked to tell the stories of those who are blind, raise awareness about the mobility challenges they often face, and engage advocates in the space. 

Waymo has long worked on fostering dialogue around what people who are blind want from autonomous driving technology and celebrates the value and insight they bring to the field. Waymo is also continually working to make its technology accessible, such as with accessibility features like assistive in-car audio and more.