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Kevin Stockton's Blind SignsBlind Aids

Kevin Stockton’s “way finders” may be coming to a town near you. These are aids and products for the blind.

Losing his sight and most of his hearing from a shotgun blast during a robbery, Kevin Stockton of Roseburg, turned around and invented a new system to assist blind people to navigate busy city streets.

Shortly after the crime ruined the former building contractor’s career, Kevin signed up for a 15-week business skills course through NeighborWorks Umpqua’s (formally Umpqua CDC) Micro-Enterprise Development and Learning (MEDAL) program in preparation to start a small business. He learned business basics, like how to write a business plan, test marketing strategies and indentifying customers’ wants and needs.

Because the class included other micro-entrepreneurs and perspective entrepreneurs, Kevin could share his ideas and receive feedback from his classmates. Kevin also received one-on-one consultations with staff.

Kevin first wanted to leverage his carpentry skills to help at-risk youth learn woodworking. However, during his rehabilitation he got stranded in the middle of a busy intersection in Portland, and heard cars screeching around him. Someone stopped and grabbed his arm and escorted him to safety. He was so traumatized by the event he holed up in his room until he came up with the idea behind Blind Signs, Inc. With the help of MEDAL staff, and his own hard work, Kevin created a solid business plan.

The ingenious plan calls for placing raised plastic strips down in sidewalks that will warn blind people of stairs, tell them where bus stops are and “show” them the direction of crosswalks. Kevin said that ADA ramps are great but that they don’t necessarily point to the opposite corner; they may spill straight into the middle of an intersection. His way finding strips are made from the same materials as pool ladders and freeway lane markers and can be easily identified by a cane or a foot.

Kevin also set a new standard for his way finders. Three parallel strips indicate a bus stop; four indicate a crosswalk and five warn of stairs. A single straight line of way finders, set end to end three inches apart can give blind people a quick way to follow a linear route down a wide sidewalk on a campus or in a shopping mall. Additional strips joined perpendicular will also tell of adjoining sidewalks of hallways.

Now, business is booming for Kevin. Blind Signs are used in Eugene at the University of Oregon and in Corvallis at Oregon State University. He also has agreements with Austin, Texas, and Berkeley, California. Municipalities and other organizations appreciate the simplicity of Kevin’s plan and the fact that they are far less expensive to purchase than alternative products and aids for the blind.

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