Christine L. Boone, Esq.
|September 20, 2002|
The Pennsylvania Bureau of Blindness & Visual Services, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Department of Labor & Industry will not take a position in favor of audible traffic signals, for the following reasons:
1. The signals, as proposed by the Access Board, constitute a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, as the law requires that an individual may accept or decline any offered accommodation (42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq.).
2. Audible Pedestrian Signals, as proposed by the Access Board constitute a clear and present danger to blind pedestrians as they mask and/or obscure the traffic sounds and other reliable sound cues which these individuals use in order to travel safely and efficiently through the built environment.
The proposed signals are apparently being recommended under the premise that down town intersections are too dangerous for blind pedestrians. In actuality, the signals make intersections which are otherwise safely negotiable by persons who are blind unsafe, and non-ADA-compliant. Further, municipalities may now be liable for injuries sustained by pedestrians, blind or sighted, while crossing intersections which are equipped with audible signals because the distraction created by the noise emitted from the signals may constitute a contributory factor in such injuries.
The proposed signals sound automatically, making it impossible for any pedestrian to "decline" to use them.
The technology exists to install pedestrian activated audible signals which would only sound if a traveler pressed a button other than the standard "walk" button. These devices would be ADA compliant, as they are a reasonable accommodation which can be accepted or declined by the traveler. They would also eliminate the problem of liability, as individuals would need to choose to use the signals, negating any contributory negligence argument that might attach fault to a municipality.
The audible pedestrian signal which can only be activated intentionally by an individual will enable properly trained persons who are blind and visually impaired to safely negotiate intersections using environmental sound cues which are proven to be safe, effective and reliable. These signals will also offer an alternative crossing cue to those pedestrians who are blind and visually impaired who are uncomfortable or untrained in crossing unmodified intersections.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Access Board's proposal. I would be pleased to provide any additional information upon request.
Christine L. Boone, Esq., Director
Bureau of Blindness & Visual Services
Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Department of Labor & Industry
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