SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision (CBLV) has now started the 2nd phase of building its training sidewalk.

Located behind the center, the sidewalk is being built to train students on how to independently, or with a service animal, on different terrains that they would come in contact with within the community. The different terrains will include a cobblestone area, a bridge, a ramp and feelings of crossing the street. 

A ramp that is part of the training sidewalk. Photo taken by Hollie Lewis.

The second phase of the training sidewalk will include a covered area for students, tactile walls, and sponsor updates.

“A lot of times when someone loses their sight, it’s kind of hard for them to adjust to their blindness. So, going out into the public where you have some students who aren’t completely blind yet but the end is going to be that they’re probably going to lose their sight enough to where they’re going to need the orientation mobility training,” said Leslie Eatherly, Director of Development for Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision. “So, with that in mind, we designed this training sidewalk so that we could train them here and it doesn’t put that added pressure on them to be out in the community where people are watching them because accepting blindness is really a hard part of going through all of it.”

As students take stairs down from a bridge, they will be met with different types of terrain to walk on as part of the training process. Photo taken by Hollie Lewis.

Up until now, CBLV therapists have to take the young and older adult students out within the community to sidewalks because the street that the center is located on has no sidewalks.

An area of the training sidewalk. Photo taken by Hollie Lewis.

“It’s really hard to come to terms when you’ve had your sight all your life and now all of a sudden you don’t have that and you’re having to use this white cane to maneuver around.  You’re already dealing with having to accept blindness, that you’re losing or have lost your sight, then to be an area where people are, it makes them nervous by being in the traffic. Our thought is if we can cover all of the basics here, and get them passed the emotional part of their training, it will be easier for them to go out on location somewhere else,” said Eatherly.

Local artists Josh and Autumn Gary and students made the stainless steel art featured at the training sidewalk. Photo taken by Hollie Lewis.

The training sidewalk offers a more tranquil and quiet place for students to train and features stainless steel art by local artists Josh and Autumn Gary and students who sat down to make out a pattern of their journey through blindness. Each piece on the sculpture is done by a student and it tells the story about their life and their journey.

The center has been working on the training sidewalk for the past several years. The third and final phase will include adding a sprinkler system to water plants, an extension of the sidewalk, and patio furniture. The project is expected to be completed around early next spring.  

To donate to the training sidewalk project click here. To see the progress on the training sidewalk, click here.

The CBLV serves 29 counties throughout southeast Coastal Georgia since 1963 and provides services for more than 475 people each year and those numbers continue to rise.

Their services include vision consultations, low vision services, vision rehabilitation therapy, orientation and mobility, support groups, technology, and receiving services.