|September 19, 2002|
I am writing with concern about accessible pedestrian signals (APS's) and detectible warnings.
This is a subject matter of great importance to me as a totally blind pedestrian and also as a consumer that knows not all people with visual impairments have the same abilities.
When crossing an intersection, many variables are taken into consideration. I must be able to listen to all of the traffic, and it is when my parallel traffic begins a steady flow through the intersection that I know it is safe to cross. The problem arises when intersections are not straight shots, but at angles and/or when multiple streets intersect. Also, the ability for motor vehicles to turn on a red light or for their to be lanes designated as turn lanes, which I am not able to see. Then there are those curbs that are very near to being flush with the street and/or unexpected drop-offs that could lead to tracks or other unsafe areas which host traffic from large moving vehicles. And of course there's unforeseen construction or bad weather that can interfere with travel. These are just a small sampling of reasons for the need for APS and detectable warnings.
These APS and detectable warnings are not to take the place of using proper orientation and mobility skills as a visually impaired person traveling with a cane, dog guide, or other mobility aid, but rather to assist an individual in their travels, allowing them to make safe choices with the assistance of their environment.
Sighted people receive many cues from the environment to help them make safe choices. They can see when a car is going to turn in front of them or when the sign says "walk" or "don't walk." They can assess the type of intersection they have arrived at, at a glance. The end of a platform will not come without warning, because they will see it as they approach it.
This isn't about giving blind people too much information, or information that others don't receive. Rather, this is about giving blind people equal access to the external environment and in the process, lessening the chance for accidents.
Yes, in all cases, whether a pedestrian is sighted or blind, there will be some who will choose not to utilize their environment. The fact is, blind people should have the right to discriminate between what information they need and what they don't want to use.
Too many people have died unnecessarily. Whether it be :the inability to determine the edge of a platform, find a cross walk or read the traffic properly, or whether it be that a person is newly blind, is in the process of losing their vision or someone blind all of their life, we all need equal access to our environment.
Therefore, I urge the Access Board to take whatever steps necessary to ensure that all people, including those with vision loss, are able to walk the diverse streets of this great country with confidence and an assurance that their environment is truly accessible.
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