Blind Pinal County man navigates disease, traffic - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Blind Pinal County man navigates disease, traffic

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Posted: Friday, February 1, 2008 10:49 pm | Updated: 8:40 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Search and rescue veteran Jeremy Schmidt has helped many people find their way in the desert surrounding Gold Canyon.

But now that he's blind, the Pinal County resident is helping others with vision impairment find their way across busy intersections.

On Saturday, Schmidt will participate in the dedication of a new traffic signal "chirper" for the visually impaired at Hunt Highway and Bella Vista Road.

"The chirper makes it very accessible," Schmidt said. "There is no way I could have made it across without it."

Pinal County Supervisor Sandie Smith, D-District 2, said the device is a tribute to Schmidt and will benefit many in the community.

"It's really a celebration of Jeremy and all of the people who have stepped up to help," Smith said.

Schmidt, 26, has a rare genetic disease called Leber hereditary optic neuropathy, which causes a progressive loss of vision.

Since going blind, Schmidt has been busy teaching himself Braille with the help of the state School for Blind Children. He is also taking vocational rehabilitation therapy.

"We marvel at his spirit," said Joyce Wilson, a friend and fellow volunteer at Superstition Search and Rescue. "If people could see what he has accomplished in less than a year, it's amazing."

Schmidt has been involved with Superstition Search and Rescue for about five years. Unit commander Robert Cooper said the team wasn't going to let Schmidt's setback stop his involvement with search and rescue.

"I'm slowly working on getting back into it by working out of base camp," Schmidt said.

The Gold Canyon Lion's Club has been helpful, Schmidt said. The group donated a computer program called Job Access with Speech to help Schmidt use the computer.

"Jeremy has been adopted by the Lion's Club," club member Andy Bergstedt said. "He's kind of been an inspiration."

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