Gary C. Norman, Esq.
October 24, 2002
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Gary C. Norman, Esq. I am avisually impaired citizen of the great
state of Maryland. I write in order to comment on the proposed rule-making of
the U.S. Access Board (Board) concerning pedestrian rights of way and adaptive
pedestrian signals (APS). Signal information is an important feature of
accessible sidewalks and street crossings for blind or visually impaired
pedestrians. The implementation of a regulation for pedestrian rights of way and
APS is of extreme importance because blind or visually impaired pedestrians will
not be secure in crossing thoroughfares until equal access to the visual
information available via traffic signals exists.
APS IS A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH AND ITS IMPLEMENTATIONIS SUPPORTED BY LAW
Persons who are blind or visually impaired cross streets via adaptive Techniques
and cues. The blind or visually impaired learn these adaptive techniques and
cues via rehabilitation training with a specially certified Orientation and
Mobility Specialist. The common technique utilized by blind or visually impaired
pedestrians for crossing signalized intersections is to transverse the street
when there is a surge of traffic parallel to their direction of travel. The
advent of computerized technology resulting in quiet automobiles, intersection
geometries, acoustic conditions, and complex traffic control systems cause
Vehicular sounds to no longer be a sufficient means by which to determine the
on-set of the WALK interval and the direction of the crosswalk. Moreover, red
light recklessness by and the disseverance of automobile drivers to comply with
white cane laws granting yield privileges to blind or visually impaired
pedestrians also supports the need for APS. Annually, more than 1.8 million
intersection crashes occur from automobile drivers running red lights. In 2000,
106,000 crashes, 89,000 injuries, and 1036 deaths were attributed to red light
running. The lack of blind or visually impaired pedestrians, who as the
population ages ever includes the elderly, to access traffic signal information
results in numerous injuries and fatalities.
On a per-mile basis, walking is dangerous as compaired to driving, flying,
riding an omnibus, or train. More than 4906 pedestrians were killed in traffic
accidents in 1999. Further, there were 85,000 pedestrian injuries, which
resulted from the lack of consideration and wrecklessness of autmobile drivers.
People who are blind or visually impaired are disproportionately represented in
the pedestrian population. On average, just 1% of funds spent in states on
safety projects are directed at pedestrian safety despite the fact that,
nationwide, approximately 12 percent of traffic deaths and serious injuries were
to pedestrians. With the baby boom generation in America fast approaching their
retirement years - and living longer, America can expect a significant increase
in the number of citizens who are blind or visually impaired. By age 65, one in
nine people experience vision loss that cannot be corrected by lenses. By age
80, it is one in four. Further, by the year 2015, America can expect a 50%
growth in the population of blind or visually impaired citizens. All of which
means that more and more blind or visually impaired citizens, which will
significantly include the elderly, may fall pray to more and more pedestrian
fatalities or injuries.
Blind or visually impaired fatalities or injuries result in a strain on the
publicbudget as dead or seriously injured cannot financially contribute to the
public. This is especially of concern, as the public will have expensed
moneteray resources on the blind or visually impaired to prepare them for the
world of work and/or independent living. Statutory law mandates and otherwise
supports the implementation of APES.
Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 USC 12101 et seq.
mandate that blind or visually impaired persons have equal access to public
services including traversing thoroughfares via the information available from
traffic signals. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which was
signed into law on June 9, 1998, establishes eligibility for federal matching
funds of at least 80% for the erection of audible traffic signals and audible
signs at street crossings.
The contrary view and one, which lacks even a modicum of logical or legal merit,
is that of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The contrary view which
states that blind or visually impaired persons do not require equal access to
information provided via traffic signals appears to lay in an argument that such
class of persons do not need special rights or assistance to cross
thoroughfares. The same kind of argument arose in the 1960s regarding the
enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which contended that African
Americans would be granted special rights if they had a panoply of laws in place
to assure their equal access to all facets of the American experience. The
argument was discredited then and continues to be discredited because such
panoply of laws allowed African Americans to lead productive and contributing
lives. Blind or visually impaired persons will receive not special but equal
rights to securely thoroughfares with the promulgation of the proposed rule.
BETTER VIEW SUPPORTED BY LAW AND REASON
The better position is that of the American Council of the Blind, which contends
that all Americans should have equal access in order to lead productive and
contributing lives. Travel afoot is an important mode of transport for blind or
visually impaired citizens. The blind or visually impaired can no longer rely
upon adaptive techniques and cues to transverse complex intersections and
determine whether an automobile driver will croos a red right or otherwise cut
in front of them. APS will allow the blind or visually impaired to equally
access the information available from traffic signals. Equal access to
information and public services is not only mandated by but is also the spirit
of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Federal matching funds will
assist local communities to endure the cost of this technology. A regulation
promulgated by the Board is an important next step to assuring the pedestrian
rights of blind or visually impaired citizens.
If there are any questions with this comment, then please telephone me.
Gary C. Norman, Esq.