|Jon Avila||September 8, 2002|
I am writing you regarding an important issue relating to visually impaired and blind people in our country. This issue is about accessible traffic signals and detectable warnings. The Access Board has wisely done studies on these topics and found them to be a great use and importance in saving lives. I think these types of signals and warnings are critically important to our civil rights. I am legally blind and use these types of warning everyday when I ride the metro to work. I know some people even blind people have said they aren't necessary because they are not needed with proper training. This is ridiculous because 70 percent of the people losing their vision are over 65 and may never get training. It would be equivalent to say that all motorist know that they should travel 25 miles an hour in a school zone so why put up signs. The fact is that we are human and need signs, alerts and warnings we are not some super human creator that can perceive everything 100 percent of the time. Please do not listen to these people unless we should remove all street and road signs for sighted people.
Thank You for your time.
Access Technology Manager
October 15, 2002
I have received many messages aimed at stopping what the Federation says are
beeping signals at every intersection. I would like to review the proposed
guidelines here and remind you that they are very clear that not all signals
will be beeping. In fact the law states in certain situations audible signals
will be used. Even in the Federation's own writings the Federation has said in
some situations they are helpful. In addition, there are many other parts to
this proposed regulation including location of the push button, and many other
safety regulations protecting blind people from traffic on the sidewalk.
Secondly, I want to remind the Federation and Access Board that when the Federation is speaking, they are not speaking on behalf of all blind people, and they are not speaking on behalf of every NFB member. I know several NFB members including myself that support some level of detectable warnings and something like a tactile push button that is near the intersection. I can think of one intersection where the pedestrian will never get a safe right away unless the pedestrian signal is pressed (please see #1, this is a major safety issue). Thus, the Federations arguments do not have the full support of all members
The following excerpt is taken from the Executive Summary of Recommended Standards from the access boards website.
Accessible pedestrian signals (X02.5.2)
. Accessible pedestrian signals are required in certain situations:
1) where pedestrian phase timing is pedestrian actuated;
2) where there is a leading pedestrian interval (LPI);
3) where there is a pretimed signal with pedestrian signal information. . Accessible pedestrian signals must indicate unambiguous directionality in audible and vibrotactile format, must have a locator tone if pedestrian activated, be audible from the beginning of the walk interval, must differentiate between walk interval and locator tones, shall be 2dB - 5dB greater than ambient noise, and not be limited in operational hours. . Audible beaconing, if provided, shall be during walk intervals only.
I believe that if the Federation believes these should be altered that they go about making the standards more specific and change the beeping of locators to vibration. Instead the Federation wants to through out any ground that blind people have made and deny people access to some very dangerous intersections. Let's work with the access board.
Now, let me address the issue of "a trained blind person" does not need audible signals. This statement is correct. However, there are over 10 million people in this country with a visual impairments, and until the Federation trains all of them, we will always have untrained people. We will always have older people who are loosing their vision, and may never receive training. Let's make an analogy here that relates to the driving world. All motorist pass the DMV driving test to get a license, to pass the test they must know that the speed limit in a school zone is 25 mph, this is a given, everyone knows this right? Ok, then let's remove all the distracting flashing lights and signs from schools zones because drivers should already know to drive safely. Let's remove most signs on the road, but good drivers should no their area and should be able to navigate without signs just as blind people navigate without pedestrian crossings. I believe we would have devastating consequences if we removed these signs from school zones etc. Let's face it people are humans, people talk, people have thoughts going through their head everyday and we are bound to make a mistake. Blind people are not perfect either. Just as signs don't replace the skill of driving, I agree that audible signals should not replace good cane travel. I think of detectable warnings as something that assists us and allows us to be more confident. One Federationist mentioned that they didn't want to put their life in the hands of a machine, drivers do this everyday when they step on the gas when the light turns green. That same machine could be wrong to and that driver could be killed. Just has drivers should watch for the green light they also need to look left and right before they cross. This is something a good driver does, and I feel confident that a good cane traveler will do the same thing even if there is an audible signal.
Let me tell you about a dangerous intersection where the push button is on a pole that is located 8 feet from the intersection. The pole is on a hill, and the hill is separated from the sidewalk by a two foot high cement wall, needless to say a pedestrian can not reach the push button unless you step up onto the hill. Already you have to search for the push button to activate the walk signal, it will not activate unless you press this button. Then when you come down from the hill you are no longer aligned parallel with traffic. The law addresses this issue very well. A signal that is close to the sidewalk and a vibrating signal would greatly help in this situation. If you would like to check this out, please go to the intersection of Jermantown Rd. and Main St. in Fairfax.
Let me tell you about two other dangerous intersections in fairfax, one is Fairfax Circle, and the other is the intersection of 50 and 29 (Main and
Lee) in Fairfax. The intersection of Main and Lee is X shaped, not a cross. 3 of the four crossings do not have sidewalks and do not have crosswalks. I often need to cross this road. Recently I crossed this road from Main St. going west across Lee Highway continuing up Main St. The difficulty about this intersection is the lack of parallel traffic. Many cars are turning from one road to the other, and the intersection is at an angle much like a backslash. Fairfax Circle has a stretch of road where there is simply no intersection, and no cross walk. In order to cross the road you must jay walk. This is a major shopping area and bus route.
Thirdly, let's talk about intersections that do not have set patterns. For example, we have one in McLean, where there may or may not be a green left turn arrow or not depending on whether someone is in that lane, the light is short, and you may or may not have parallel traffic to follow that is coming toward you. When do you cross? Wouldn't it be nice to know that they don't have a green turn arrow and thus they only have a green light and the driver will be paying more attention? I agree that we shouldn't put our lives in the hands of a signal, I believe that good cane skills are important don't get me wrong.
Let me tell you about 2 intersections where I was almost hit. In both cases I was crossing the street with parallel traffic in fairfax county. Both times cars who also had a green light and where parallel to me made right hand turns into me, they assume that since they have a green light, they don't have to stop for pedestrians who are parallel to them. Both of these issues could have been solved by the walk button activating the right lane's green light to turn red. In this situation an audible signal would not have made a difference, however, rethinking of this intersection including more signs warning of crossing pedestrians would help.
In conclusion, I believe training in cane travel is important, I believe the Federation should work with the US Access Board to come up with a more reasonable set of standards. I believe that life is to short to always be fighting other blind people. We have enough work to fight sighted people and to change their misconceptions. Always remember that the Federation is made up of a individuals, with their own beliefs, and own values, and we can and will speak our minds. We are educated, and do our own research. I we want to fight something, then lets fight those curb cuts that go straight out into the intersection. There are many battles to fight.
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