Jessi D. Newton
|October 12, 2002|
I recently received an email that to me was quite disturbing. I read of the public hearing in Portland Oregon, regarding a proposal to install audible crossing signals to assist blind pedestrians, in crossing busy intersections. I AM WHOLE-HEARTEDLY IN FAVOR OF THE PROPOSAL.
I am a resident of Tempe Arizona, just east of Phoenix. Tempe is a large college city, and has many, wide and busy intersections, that even for sighted people, are difficult to cross. Several of our intersections have been equipped with audible crossing devices. The assistive devices are typically located at intersections where one of the streets is quite wide, seven or eight lanes across, and the other is slightly smaller, four to six lanes across. Not only are the audible signals something that a blind traveler can hear, the city has adjusted the length of the walk time, to allow more time for crossing the busy street. The city has been consistant in making the sounds for the signals a single tone that matches the walk hand. When the walk hand flashes, the signals indicates the flashing by an interrupted single tone, also matching the flashing hand.
It is my belief that you might benefit from hearing from a totally blind
traveler who has no affiliation with any organization for the blind. I consider
myself highly independant. I am a fulltime student in college, a mother, and
actively involved in my community. I am able to effective use public and private
transportation, and I enjoy the assistance of my guide dog, Colleen. Here in
Arizona, it is not uncommon to have to negotiate areas of heavy traffic,
sidewalks that are right on the street, and multiple driveway entrances. Our
campus has a population of 47,000 students, and every day, Colleen and I get
around with no sighted assistance.
My independence has been enhanced by the city's installation of audible crossing signals. I had never heard of the devices before moving to Arizona, but once I became familiar with them, I have even considered the location of the currently operating audible crossers when choosing my place of residence. It is still necessary to use all of my orientation and mobility skills, but the audible crossers add a dimension of security to my travel. One supporter of the proposal said in the Associated Press article, that not everyone has the same level of sight loss, and not everyone is at the same level of functional ability. He also said that the audible crossers would help blind persons know where they were, and what streets they were at. This is very true, even when driving in a car with a sighted person, I find myself being able to name the intersection I am at, if I hear the audible crosser. I can also use it as a marker, as I approach an especially busy intersection.
In conclusion, I think the proposal is an excellent one, and should be
pursued vigorously. I have felt so strongly about the issue, that I have been
instrumental in several of our city's installations of audible crossers. There
have been three intersections where I have specifically requested audible
crossers, and the city did install them. They have made my travel just a little
bit safer. It is illogical for someone to worry about what others think of them,
when their first concern should be safety. Blind persons who have good travel
skills will need little or no training for audible crossers. Those blind persons
who have limited travel skills, may need extra assistance, but they would have
needed extra help, audible crossers or not. Please, don't let the loud voice of
some sway your decision to let us have one more tool in our travel toolbox.
Audible crossers can be one more step in the direction of complete independence,
even if they simply provide a feeling of security to the blind traveler. Pleas
don't allow a few image conscious folks to take that away from the rest of us.
Jessi D. Newton
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