Blind Teen Can Now Safely Walk To School

OMAHA (kptm) - A blind teenager wants to walk home from middle school alone. And after changing a Ralston ordinance, she now can.

Ashleah Chamberlain is a typical 13-year-old girl. She likes spending time with her friends and having the freedom to walk home from middle school alone. But Ashleah faces an obstacle everyday on that walk. She's blind and relies on her senses to get her home safely. "It's not that far away from the middle school. It's just four houses down, so there's usually two streets. The first street is kind of busy since all the parents are taking their kids home and the second street is not too busy," Ashleah says.

But many drivers don't realize she's blind and without thinking they wave her across the street. "Some people will just kind of stop for a minute and like roll down the window. Some depending on who it is just say go and some people don't do anything," Ashleah says.

Her parents encourage her to be independent. "I think it's great that she's courageous and she's fearless as far as doing things that everybody else does. She gets around really well," Marty Chamberlain says.

But they worry about the drivers who don't realize she can't see. "We feel like she's independent enough and she's skilled enough at using her long white cane to really get to and from school safely but we thought it'd be a good idea to have a safety net or an extra little precaution if you will," Marty says.

So to make her trip home easier, her parents talked with the Ralston city council about putting up a caution sign. However Ashleah was too old. The law says only children under the age of 13 are considered. "We said, the ordinance doesn't allow for that but let us reconsider the ordinance and so we upped the age and put it in place," Ralston city councilman Rich Onken says.

Public Works officials say the sign will be posted on the utility pole across the street. The Chamberlain's hope it'll make drivers in their neighborhood a little more cautious. "Just to give people that were driving down the street the knowledge that there's someone just to go slow for all the kids, I mean there's a lot of kids that live on this street," Marty says.

"To know that people actually know that I'm a blind person so they'll be careful is a good thing," Ashleah says.