Patrick J. Burke
|October 27, 2002|
I am writing in regard to the Access Board Draft Guidelines on Accessible
Public Rights-of-Way, particularly Section 1106 and other sections affecting
accessible pedestrian crossings. I applaud the work of the Access Board in this
area and could only wish that the regulations were more extensive. These
regulations will help make true freedom of movement possible for blind
I am totally blind and have had mobility training since age 5. At age 6 I was able to walk independently to school along a short route that involved three residential street crossings. According to instructors in more recent years I still have good white cane technique and excellent spatial perception.
Yet even after more than thirty years of experience, street crossings at traffic signals remain the most challenging daily task I face in independent travel. There are no signals with audible or tactile signal indicators in my immediate area, and without these aids it is very difficult to determine when to cross using traditional mobility methods (primarily listening for the presence and direction of parallel traffic). On weekends there is often not enough traffic to get an unambiguous cue to make a safe crossing. During the week there is a large amount of turning traffic and a many busses throughout the area, all of which obscure the parallel traffic sounds. The result is that I often have to wait through several cycles of a signal to get a clear indicator of when to cross. This can nearly double my travel time in many instances.
While I may live in a particularly difficult urban environment for street crossings, my experience is that a majority of crossings have either too much traffic or not enough to give a reliable indication of when the visual signal on the desired crossing is green. Audible and tactile signal indicators get blind pedestrians one step closer to the freedom of movement that sighted pedestrians enjoy. The decibel and ambient noise regulations in 1106.2.3 would guarantee that signal indicators are unobtrusive to anyone who does not need or wish to use them.
Many thanks to the Access Board for its work on these Guidelines.
Patrick J. Burke
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