The Inland Northwest Lighthouse Braille Rally from the Perspective of a Braille Reading Navigator

By Julie Brannon

The title is an example of driving directions that 19 navigators read from their braille driving directions to trusting drivers at the Inland Northwest Lighthouse Braille Rally, held Saturday, June 11th in Spokane, WA. Many of those drivers were members of the Porsche Club of America, Inland Northwest Region.

The purpose of the rally was two-fold, as a public awareness event for the Inland Northwest Lighthouse, and also, as a education tool for the public to understand the benefits and abilities of braille readers.

I don’t remember the day, but I do remember the excitement that I felt when Inland Northwest Lighthouse employee, Kevin Daniel, called to ask if I’d be interested in participating in the Braille Rally. As I hung up the phone, all that went through my mind, and I suspect many other navigators was, “Wow! A chance to be a back seat (or rather front seat) driver!”

The dynamics were fascinating. This was never verbalized, but I think my driver and other drivers were at first a bit weary trusting the braille directions that were being read, and I know I felt a load of responsibility acting as a human GPS, “what if I get my driver and myself totally lost?” As we wound around corners, and looked for some obscure streets, I began to not trust my reading when my driver would say, “that one I’m not familiar with.” You see, I had a veteran resident and driver who knew most of the streets and locations the route sent us on, so his very occasional lack of familiarity with a particular street made me question both myself and the braille printer. But, I continued to scrutinize the directions, being very sure that I was reading what was brailled, and guess what? We made it!

Excitement mounted as we passed every check point where white flags were waved. Checkpoint spotters stood by to mark down our arrival times at those check points.

As each car arrived back at the Inland Northwest Lighthouse parking lot, a flurry of cheers, shouting, bravos, and clapping could be heard all around.

By the time my driver and I got back to the finish line, it felt like the almost two hours spent together on this joint venture made us a real driving team. This was a day to remember, and for those of us navigating the cars, what a feeling of exhilaration to know we could actually direct a driver around a circuitous route.