New bus and train routes in Seattle are excellent news for some, but make life more complicated for those with limited sight and hearing.
Lynn Chase sweeps the cane in a wide arc across the ground, searching for her next clue. Swish, swish; the cane cuts through air. Tap, tap; the white end smacks against a concrete edge. It’s Chase’s cue to turn 90 degrees left, take a few steps and slowly reach out her hand to feel for a railing. Grasping it, she starts down the stairs and out of the Northgate light rail station.
Chase repeats the circuit several more times — from the train platform to the exit and bus stop — as David Miller, an orientation and mobility specialist for people who are deaf-blind, closely watches nearby.
He gently nudges Chase to the right when she swerves off track. Chase places her hand slightly cupped, palm down in front of her, indicating her desire to communicate. They discuss her steps through tactile sign language.
Once out of the station and waiting at a bus stop, Chase whips out a card and holds it at chest level. This laminated bright yellow piece of paper — Braille on one side, a bus number on the other — is how she communicates to the driver where she wants to go.
The next day she is back at it.
Chase worked on her new routes for about three weeks before she was ready to travel alone.