Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired faces severe shortage of drivers

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People who are blind in Vermont need help just running the simplest of errands, but right now, the company they rely on, is facing a severe shortage of drivers.

“Otherwise, you know, I’m just kind of stuck in place without transportation,” said Joel Klug. “I would just depend on walking and not many places are accessible by walking.”

Joel Klug is legally blind and one of 13,000 people in the Green Mountain State who is currently blind or visually impaired. He uses the driving service to pick his daughter up from daycare and run errands. He says it’s given him the independence to fulfill tasks many people take for granted in their daily life.

“It fills in a lot of transportation gaps,” he said. “I depend on the volunteer drivers to get me places I otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to.”

The Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired is really hurting for volunteer drivers. It serves 1500 people around the state, with offices in South Burlington, Brattleboro, Rutland, and Berlin. At any given time the organization typically has 20- 25 drivers at each of its 4 offices, but right now there are only 3 drivers for all of Chittenden County, and its impacting services

“With COVID-19, it’s become a real socially isolating for our clients,” said Daniel Norris, Director of adult services. “We want to bridge that gap, and that’s where the volunteer driving program comes in.”

Norris, knows about the need first hand. He, too is legally blind.

“I’m able to cook and clean and do my laundry and do all those things,” he said. “The one thing I can’t do is drive.”

He says the biggest need right now is to take clients to medical check-ups, but they also can provide transportation services for personal reasons. For driver Terri Geffert, it’s been more than just volunteering, she’s formed a bond with some of the clients, too.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him,” she said. “We’re both bargain hunters so its fun to look at the coupons and decide whats a good deal, and whats not a good deal.”

Growing up, Geffert also experienced her father lose his eyesight to a medical condition, which made her sensitive to the need. Those interested in becoming a volunteer driving should email Vicki Vest, at vvest@vabvi.org

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