WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Imagine waking up one day and not being able to get around the place you’ve lived your entire life. That’s the reality for one Wilmington man who went blind three years ago.
Fred Strong has lived in Wilmington his entire life. He knows the city like the back of his hand, but is now unable to navigate it.
“After visiting and staying in Raleigh for about 10 weeks, I’m almost ashamed to say I live in Wilmington in relationship to the blind and the handicapped trying to maneuver through Wilmington,” Strong said.
He says relearning how to do everyday tasks hasn’t been easy, but he’s had some great help along the way.
“In the beginning it was very depressing, but because of the North Carolina School for the Blind, I feel like I’ve come alive again, and I’m not just existing,” he said.
He says at the school in Raleigh, he was taught how to get around town using crosswalks that announce out loud when it is safe to cross.
“I’m going straight on Jones Street, and I push the arrow and it tells me Jones Street arrow clear,” Strong said.
He was surprised to learn that these type of crosswalks are not in Wilmington, and will go before city council Tuesday to ask that they consider installing them. He says without them, it isn’t safe for the visually impaired.
“My challenge to you in the community is to put a set of blindfolds on, and walk with me from Long Street on Shipyard to Long Leaf Mall, crossing Holly Tree, or crossing left to go to Brightmore,” Strong said.
I spoke to City Councilman Paul Lawler, who said he did not know enough about these types of crosswalks, and would have to research them before Tuesday’s meeting.
I also reached out to Mayor Bill Saffo and have not yet heard back.