GAUTIER, Miss. (WLOX) - If you are visually impaired on the Mississippi Coast, you have to go to Jackson to learn how to walk on the streets safely.
A Gulf Coast group called Never Lose Sight wants to change that.
They provide resources but also plan to begin lobbying the state government for legislation that will help blind people and to create a training center on the Coast.
There aren’t enough orientation-mobility specialists on the Coast, and only Mississippi State University offers the degree.
“We would love to have something down here to train people how to get around on the Gulf Coast in the lower counties,” said David Lancaster, founder of Never Lose Sight.
“We have so much we can do down here on the Coast for the blind people. We shouldn’t have to go up to Jackson, to Addie McBryde," Lancaster said referring to the facility in Jackson. "We could do it right here on the Gulf Coast. Who don’t want to come to the Gulf Coast?”
Lancaster lost his sight in 2016 at age 49. He said he didn’t know what resources were available, but instead of giving up, he started working.
“I knew I had to keep moving. At 49, I’m still young at mind and at heart” he said. Lancaster worked with the state department of rehabilitation to do what he could. “There’s more out there for people that are seeing impaired. We don’t need to stay in the house.”
Lancaster became an advocate and formed Never Lose Sight as a peer group that meets monthly to provide mutual aid and provide a link to other agencies
“We help each other. It’s a big fight; there’s a lot of disabled people on the Coast," he said.
The big desire is to become independent.
“Most blind people, we still want to be involved, we still want to go to work, we still want to have families,” Lancaster said. “If you can learn to maneuver around your house, get comfortable there, you can always go back to work. The hard part is, and I always say this, it’s between your ears, it’s in your mind on why people don’t want to get out.”
Many visually-disabled people don’t want to be a burden he said. Many struggle with depression. Lancaster encourages people to get out of the house.
“It’s all on what you make it. Get out. Take that blind person, seeing-impaired person, take them to Walmart. Let them go find their own stuff. Help them, keep them going," he said.