October 6, 2002
As a blind traveler, I am strongly opposed to the blanket installation of
audible traffic signals, of whatever kind, on every corner where walk/don't walk
traffic signals are present. The signals I have encountered up to this point,
whether they beep, chirp or buzz, have not been helpful in determining the true
traffic patterns. In fact, they have often distracted me, or masked the sounds
of traffic moving near me, which is a much safer means of determining when to
cross an intersection. Only occasionally have I encountered an intersection
which is so wide or complicated that traffic patterns cannot be used as my
guide; in these cases, I've often noticed that drivers are as confused as I am,
or are over-eager to beat the light, so an audible traffic signal could give a
false sense of security and mask the sound of on-coming traffic.
For those few complicated intersections, I would prefer a tactile signal, which
would be pedestrian activated. This would assist deaf-blind travelers, as well,
since they, rather than the blind, are at a disadvantage in most cases.
Too often, people believe that gadgets are the panacea for all ills that beset
the blind. Rather it is the confidence resulting from proper training which is
most needed. By adopting this blanket requirement, The Access Board will be
doing a dis-service to the blind--allowing government officials to feel that
gismos can solve all our problems, and giving them an excuse to fail to provide
what we need most--sufficient, competent training to instill confidence in our
own mobility skills.
Please modify any rule you adopt to only apply to complicated intersections
where audible cues are not sufficient to provide complete information, and
provide tactile rather than audible signals where some accommodation is needed.