Glenn R. McCully
|September 18, 2002|
The purpose of this correspondence is to indicate to you my strong support of the "Draft Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-of-Way as published in the Federal Register on June 17, 2002 (docket #02-1 RIN 3014-AA26). This comprehensive proposal is well planned and encompasses the needs of all pedestrians regardless of their disability. Any delay in the adoption of these guidelines or attempts to weaken them is, simply put, unacceptable and would have tragic impacts on the lives of thousands of Americans who have disabilities.
Being legally blind since birth, I am particularly in favor of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) at key intersections, detectable warnings, and way finding systems. The use of these devises help to level the playing field for blind persons with that of their sighted counterparts. Certainly quality orientation and mobility skills training are an important part of safe travel for blind persons but it is only one part of a much larger realm.
In my personal experiences using APS devices, I have found them very helpful especially in situations where I am unfamiliar with the traffic patterns at an intersection. They are also very useful on bright sunny days when my limited vision prevents me from seeing the walk signals. This is especially important during low traffic times when I can't safely rely on the movement of automobiles to indicate when the walk signal is active. APS devices provide blind individuals access to the same information a sighted person receives when looking at the signal. It isn't intended to indicate when it is safe to cross but rather to indicate when the signal light has changed to the walk mode. I as a blind person still need to evaluate the situation and determine if it is safe for me to cross. I have found the APS devices a wonderful tool to assist me with the decision to cross or to wait.
Detectable warnings at the edge of transit and other platforms is not just a good idea, it's an absolute necessity that is long overdue. Detectable warnings are useful by all pedestrians, not just blind people. I know a woman who is fully sighted. She was on a very crowded subway platform and became distracted by a commotion taking place near her. She turned to see what was going on and inadvertently took a few steps backward. Suddenly she felt the truncated domes of the warning strip under her feet and realized she was just inches away from falling backwards off the platform into the track bed. If warning strips have this kind of benefit for fully sighted people then imagine the added safety they provide to travelers with little or no sight. To forgo the installation of detectable warnings at platforms is an utterly ridiculous notion and should be rejected out of hand without any further review. Some will argue that detectable warnings detract from the environment and do little to save lives. I am of the opinion that if they can save even a few lives they are worth the investment. Blind people who argue against additions to the built environment on the basis ascetics and not wanting to impose changes that, in their opinion, are only for the visually impaired on the rest of society are an insignificant minority. These people are in denial of their disability and are willing to gamble with their lives just to try and live in the sighted world without any accommodations. The vast majority of the blind, including myself, wants and expects minor accommodations to the environment around us so we can be independent and fully integrated into society. With minor changes to the built environment around us we can and will be independent.
Way finding systems are also important for visually impaired persons especially in large open areas and parking lots. These systems show the blind the proper direction to travel to safely traverse the area they are in and indicate the location of buildings and facilities. I encourage the board to investigate and use both high-tech and low-tech way finding systems. Some people may suggest that way finding systems are unnecessary.
They have made suggestions like "use the sun to figure out what direction you are traveling." I would like you to show me the sun on a rainy January day in a place like Seattle. What about at night? Do these people just stay indoors and not go anywhere? Definitely way finding systems are essential.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you in advance for what I am sure will be sane and rational decisions regarding pedestrian safety and public rights-of-way. I am confident that you will see the sheer lunacy of individuals and organizations that oppose these recommendations and discount and disregard their irrelevant public comments. The overwhelming majority of Americans support the proposed guidelines and they should be enacted without further delay.
Glenn R. McCully
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