Richard C. Davis
|October 28, 2002|
I am writing to express my opposition to the Access Board's draft
guidelines for Audible Traffic Signals (ATS) and Detectable Warnings. I offer my
comments from the perspective of a person who has worked with blind people for
almost 32 years, first as a travel instructor, then a rehabilitation teacher,
rehabilitation counselor, rehabilitation area supervisor, orientation center
administrator and director, and director of a state agency for the blind.
In my professional opinion, the proposed guidelines are both unnecessary and harmful. ATS produce sounds which block ambient traffic sounds that blind persons use to determine when to safely cross streets. In addition, they create a false sense of security that can actually cause accidents. In order for a blind person to safely cross a street, that person must be able to tell what the traffic is doing and determine if a car or truck is moving through the crosswalk. People turn right on red and run intersections on a regular basis, and knowing that the walk light is on may cause a blind person to venture out into them. There are also serious liability issues for municipalities when the devices fail to work or when blind pedestrians interpret them incorrectly.
Detectable warnings are slippery when wet, and the bumps on them can accumulate ice in Northern climes. Blind persons trained in the use of white canes and guide dogs and listening to the traffic will have no problems detecting intersections. Again, there will be liability problems for municipalities when people slip on the detectable warnings or misinterpret their message.
The cost of installing detectable warnings at all intersections and ATS at all intersections with traffic signals will be prohibitive. Because of that, I believe if the guidelines are put into law, municipalities will file lawsuits to challenge the ADA. The sheer cost of implementing the draft guidelines will require that they challenge them. Based on recent court decisions, I
think the ADA will lose, and be further watered down.
A more reasonable approach would be for the draft guidelines to be modified to require that ATS and Detectable Warnings be installed only at intersections in which the construction of the intersection or traffic patterns make it difficult for a trained blind person to negotiate the intersection. This is the approach proposed by the National Federation of the Blind, which takes a more moderate stance on these issues.
I suggest that the Access Board revise the proposed guidelines along the lines proposed above. If that is impossible, I think the Access Board should vote not to accept the guidelines as unnecessary and unworkable. Thank you for the opportunity to offer these comments.
Richard C. Davis
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