|October 16, 2002|
I cannot understand why anyone would want to further endanger the lives
of anyone, but particularly those of us who are blind or visually-impaired, by
denying us the opportunity to know when the lights in our favor are green, and
the crosswalk light is lit, just as sighted people are entitled to know.
I am a skilled cane user, as well as a proficient Guide Dog handler, and pride myself on my ability to cross traffic light-controlled intersections carefully and independently. But last week, after attending a play, my Guide Dog, Mickey, had led me to the intersection we were to cross, on our route home.
I pressed the "Walk" button, and listened to the flow of traffic. When the cross traffic in front of me stopped, and my closest parallel traffic began to proceed through the intersection, I issued the forward command to Mickey, and he dutifully began to lead me across the street.
We had no sooner stepped off the curb, when other pedestrians standing at the same corner, began yelling at us that the light was changing back to red again. As there were eight lanes to cross, and we hadn't yet successfully crossed even the first of them, I immediately dropped Mickey's harness, and leading him with his leash, high-tailed it back to the curb we had just left, just as the cross traffic began to enter the intersection, narrowly missing us, as we stepped back up onto the curb.
What had I done wrong? Nothing. But being an "intelligent" intersection, pressing the "Walk" button did not guarantee that the Walk light would be illuminated on the next green light cycle. Instead, it would be activated when the system deemed it appropriate to halt traffic for the length of time necessary to allow the pedestrians to cross this busy intersection.
Was my life, and Mickey's endangered? You bet they were! Could we have benefited from an audible crossing signal, to tell us when it was appropriate for us to attempt our crossing? There is no doubt in the minds of any sane and reasonable person, that it would have been.
Why, then, would anyone oppose the installation of audible crossing signals? And why would an organization, that purports to represent those of us who are blind or visually-impaired, work to ensure that more of us who are blind, be killed or injured on our nation's streets and highways?
The following morning, I called the City Fathers, to complain about this dangerous traffic signal, and request that an audible crossing system be installed to facilitate the safe crossing of those of us who are unable to see the crossing lights.
I was told that the city had, indeed, considered installing such a system at that, and several other known dangerous intersections around the city. But, having read about the NFB, and it's opposition to such devices, the city found an easy excuse not to put forth the funds required to install such systems in their city.
The NFB claimed that the blind shouldn't be afforded any special "privileges." And if the blind didn't want them for the blind, why should anyone else?
If we follow the NFB's "logic," then we should not only do away with all audible crossing signals, but all "Walk / Don't Walk" signals, and all traffic control systems at all intersections. That way, it will, indeed, be a level playing field, and nobody will have an advantage over anyone else.
I was infuriated! How dare the NFB claim to speak for me! Did they interview me, and ask me for my input and opinion? No!
There are literally millions of Americans who are blind or visually-impaired. Yet the NFB has a membership numbering merely in the thousands. How, then, can they purport to speak for all of us who are blind or visually-impaired? They can't! And I strenuously object to their claims that they can and do.
I am not affiliated with any organization whatsoever. But if any organization claims that they represent me, then I demand that they do thos e things that work to my benefit, and certainly not work against me, to my detriment or demise.
This is not just a differing of ideological philosophies. It is a matter of life and death! It doesn't get any more serious than that!
I can't stress strongly enough, how important it is for all of us, who are blind and visually- impaired, to have access to safe, audibly-controlled intersections, enabling us the basic right to cross such intersections safely; a right guaranteed to the rest of the sighted public.
Visual "Walk / Don't Walk" signals are provided for the sighted population, who are able to see for themselves, whether it is safe to cross an intersection during a cycle of the traffic signal, which will provide ample time to make a safe crossing.
If the sighted misjudge, and happen to be stranded in the middle of the intersection when the light cycles back to red, at least they can see to avoid any oncoming vehicles.
But those of us who are blind, and most in need of knowing this information, don't even have a chance. Being unable to see the traffic, much less the traffic lights, we are being deprived of something as basic as knowing that the "Walk" light is illuminated, by providing something as simple as an audible device to protect our very lives. What sense does this make?
On behalf of the millions of non-affiliated blind and visually-impaired citizens of the United States, I beg you to vote IN FAVOR of audible crossing devices at traffic light-controlled intersections. Our very lives and safety depend on it, and we are depending on you and your wisdom, for our very safety and survival!
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.
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