|Jacob Joehl||September 8, 2002|
I am writing in full support of the report by the Public Rights of Way Access Committee. I am a blind person, and I use a white cane to get around. I feel that both audible pedestrian signals and detectable warnings are both crucial and vital for the environment. Those who oppose these two means of travel communication don't seem to care about the lives of anyone who comes in contact with these things.
There have been numerous individuals who were critically injured or killed due to lack of detectable warnings and audible pedestrian signals. My brother, who is blind and also uses a cane to travel, was almost killed when he fell off a train platform a few years ago. He landed in between the train tracks, but fortunately some passers-by got him out of there and called paramedics. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, and treated and released later that day. He was lucky, because he had only some severe bruises which healed very well. But the outcome could have been much worse had those passers-by not rescued him. This accident could have been prevented with the use of detectable warnings on the train platform.
I would also like to once again voice my support for audible pedestrian signals. I should mention that the only place I saw one of these was London, England, a while back. Thank you in advance for reading my letter, and let's stop all this nonsense about how blind and visually-impaired people, and those with other disabilities, are of little or no importance!.
October 11, 2002
I am writing you because I received a disturbing e-mail this morning. This
was actually a forwarded message from an e-mail list conducted by the National
Federation of the Blind. It concerned their protest on Tuesday, October 8, of
accessible pedestrian signals and tactile warning strips. First of all, and I
may be wrong here, but I don't think they are the largest organization of the
blind as they claim to be. As I said, I could be mistaken. Secondly, I urge you
to use common sense and take the position of the American Council of the Blind.
That is, a position in support of tactile warnings and audible pedestrian
signals. Like I mentioned to you in my last e-mail, I have never witnessed an
audible ped signal, with the exception of one in London, England, a while back.
These signals, along with tactile warnings, are crucial to the safety of people
who are blind or who have low vision, just as regular traffic signals and
colored sidewalks and such are crucial for the safety of people who don't have a
disability. In the few minutes I have before catching a taxi to go work out, I
urge you to support accessible pedestrian signals and tactile warnings. Not only
are these crucial for the safety of people who are blind or visually-impaired,
but people with physical disabilities could greatly benefit from these. I
commend the member of the Washington Council of the Blind who was at the October
8 protest, but I wish that he would have won, and that there were more people
with his views in attendance at the protest. I feel that the NFB is greatly
contradicting themselves. I will explain what I mean by this. The NFB strongly
opposes such things as audio-described videos and audible ped signals, which are
both environmental changes. Yet the NFB supports such things as Braille literacy
and accessible voting.
As mentioned in my previous letter to you, my brother fell off a train platform here in Chicago. He is also blind. This accident could have very well been prevented with a tactile warning strip on the platform. There have been numerous blind people seriously injured or even killed because of the lack of tactile warning strips. I feel the National Federation of the Blind is doing us a big disservice by protesting such accommodations as I've mentioned. Their emphasis is not where it should be. In other words, they are not taking safety seriously by constantly protesting these issues. So I again urge you to support the Prowac report, because it will mean many more lives saved. Remember the saying: A second saved is a life saved. Thank you very much for your attention to this issue.
October 15, 2002
I would like you to carefully examine the below message, and see for yourself what is wrong with the National Federation of the Blind's view on the matter. It is obvious to me that they're not concerned with safety, and that they want to get injured or killed. Jake Joehl
Blind group protests plan for audible signals [from The
Blind people in Portland picketed Tuesday against a federal proposal for making the traffic crossings safer for blind people.
The draft guidelines include plans to outfit traffic signals with devices such as beepers.
"Jeepers Creepers," some pickets' signs said, "Lose those beepers!"
Conducted outside the downtown Hilton Portland during the nation's only scheduled public hearing on the issue, the sidewalk picketing highlighted a split between at least two national support groups for the blind.
Inside the hotel, officials said the American Council of the Blind supports a proposed draft of federal guidelines requiring that crossings be outfitted with "audible traffic signals" and "detectable warnings" that a blind person could feel and hear.
On the hotel's Southwest Sixth Avenue transit mall sidewalk, meanwhile, several dozen members of the National Federation of the Blind picketed the proposal. Pickets said they had called in members from more than 20 states to help demonstrate opposition.
Carla McQuillan, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon and a member of the national board of directors, said members think the proposal would cost more than $70 million to outfit Portland intersections alone. She said the federal proposal would play to contractors in line to make money, undercut a blind person's abilities in the eyes of others, and ultimately be disorienting and unsafe for blind people and everyone else as automated traffic signals spoke, clicked, chirped or beeped.
"No chirp, no beep," chanted men and women with white canes. "We know when to
cross the street!"
At the entryway to the public hearing inside the hotel, Gary Burdett, a church pastor representing the Washington Council of the Blind, said both the Washington Council and the full American Council of the Blind strongly back the federal draft proposal. He said not everyone has the same level of sight loss or mobility, nor is every intersection the same. He said the proposal would help increase safety for everyone -- including sighted youngsters and older people.
"An audible signal will tell you where you're at, what street you're at, what direction," Burdett said. "It'll tell you if it's a free right-hand turn in front of you -- if the light in front of you is a free right-hand turn, or if there's an island. It gives you the information that you need to be able to cross that street."
Burdett said that the changes would cost money but that supporters also see potential savings in terms of fewer injuries and resulting lawsuits. He said the main message, to him, is that blind people need equal access.
"I don't want any more than they already give you as a sighted person," Burdett said. "They're already telling you when to walk. You've also got the sign that tells you what street you're crossing."
A list of more than three dozen people seeking to testify named members of support groups for the blind, an independent living instructor, the Federal Highway Administration and others.
The public hearing was held by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. Known for short as the United States Access Board, the panel is an independent federal agency that is supposed to ensure safe and equal access to certain federally funded places and structures under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act.
The access board has 25 members, 13 of whom are presidentially appointed. The
others are representatives of federal agencies, said Lawrence W. Roffee, the
Access Board's executive director.
"We're hearing from both blindness communities," Roffee said. "One group is saying 'We desperately need this, it's a matter of life and death, it's very important to us.' And another group, certainly more vocal here today . . . saying, 'We hate these, they cost too much, we don't need them.'
"So we have two organizations, both representing just about equal numbers of blind folks across the United States and two distinctly different positions, and the board is going to have to come up with something. I couldn't dare to predict what the board will come up with."
Of the board's 25 members, Roffee said, one member is legally blind. He said about 16 of the board's members made the trip for Tuesday's public hearing. It is part of a three-day visit to Portland set to include a tour of Portland's light rail and streetcar lines, PGE Park, and visits to the Pearl District and Sandy Boulevard.
The board chose Portland as the site of its only public hearing, Roffee said, because of Portland's reputation as a place that keeps pedestrians in mind.
On June 17, the Access Board released draft guidelines on "accessible public rights-of-way" for public comment. The board said the idea was to ensure equal access for people with disabilities whenever a pedestrian area is built or changed. The draft guildelines cover pedestrian access to areas that include crosswalks, curb ramps, parking and other things on public streets.
Created with help from an advisory committee, the access board's proposed draft guidelines will be open for public comment through Oct. 28.
From this point, Roffee said, it usually takes between 18 months and two years for the access board to consider comments and put guidelines into effect.
The board said comments, including name and address, can be sent to:
Scott Windley, U.S. Access Board, 1331 F Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C. 20004.
Spencer Heinz: 503-221-8072; email@example.com
Copyright 2002 Oregon Live. All Rights Reserved.
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