I am an Ohio native and graduate of General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering. I retired last year after a nearly 40-year career at GM. During my career, I worked as an engineer in manufacturing plants for 17 years, as a corporate ergonomist for 5 years, and the remainder of my career focused on performance metrics at a corporate level. Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of 13, I used every opportunity to focus on what I could do, and ignore what I was told I could not do. With the support of family and friends who treated me like everyone else, I have been able to do just that.
I have also served as the chair of the GM People with Disabilities Employee Resource (now GM Able) group for 11 years. We focused on recruiting, hiring retaining and marketing to people with disabilities at GM. Our group has been key in providing information to our product development team on how AVs will benefit PWD and what design features are essential to provide the best experience for people who are blind and have low vision.
A lot of what I have been able to do has been possible because of the support of my family, coworkers and friends. Public transportation has its limits, and not all car services are friendly to people with disabilities, especially if you have a service dog as I do. Also, if you really want to make effective use of your time, you can’t waste a lot of it waiting on transportation.
Autonomous vehicles will give people who are blind the same service as those who are not blind. Thus, providing the independence to control your own schedule and not have to schedule around public transportation. It also eliminates the discrimination that can result from a driver who does not want to pick up a person with a disability and provides a level of security that the information provided by the AV is accurate.
Opportunities and quality of life for people who are blind and have low vision will be much improved with the availability of AVs.
Watch Renee speak on behalf of GM at last year’s American Council for the Blind Conference.