October 28, 2002
To the Access Board:
I am writing to express my ideas on the proposal regarding audible traffic
signals to assist the visually impaired. First, I believe such signals are
sometimes useful in conditions where many streets come together, creating a
complicated and hard to interpret traffic flow. They might also be quite useful
in circumstances where there is a crosswalk and no cross street, (i.e.) no cross
traffic flow to be able to tell when the signal has changed.
However, I see some problems with simply placing audible signals at all
intersections, or only placing them at certain intersections where the traffic
flow is well defined.
It has been observed that, when audible signals are placed at some intersections
and not others, a condition which may result due to a lack of funds, blind
people are expected to use the intersections with the audible signals as opposed
to intersections without them. This results in a discriminatory situation in
which the blind are routed into certain paths as opposed to the general public.
This has been observed to happen in other countries such as Japan.
It should also be noted that traffic signals constantly emitting noise into the
environment point out to everyone that here is a service for the blind who are
unable to navigate without special adaptations in the environment. This is
simply not true given that the blind have proper training in the use of the
white cane or guide dog.
Audible signals are more expensive to implement than today's signals. Since any
society has limited funds to spend on the blind, a minority of its citizens,
Such funds as are available should, I feel, be spent first on adequate
rehabilitation of the blind, teaching them adequate travel skills. Having good
travel skills is, I feel, much more important than providing audible traffic
signals. Good travel skills are useful in getting around in shopping malls,
airports, and places of business, as well as walking on the streets. In other
words, proper mobility training is universally useful, where audible signals
only assist when getting around in traffic.
Moving to another topic, it is thought to be necessary to have some sort of
tactile warning when there is a street coming up. It has been shown to be
beneficial to have such tactile warnings where the change from sidewalk to
street is very slight, but it should not be necessary to have such
accommodations at every approach. There can especially be problems with the
truncated domes. People can trip on them, and they can make it difficult for
persons using wheel chairs.
In summary, I feel that audible traffic signals are good to have where traffic
patterns are hard to interpret. Similarly, tactile warnings should be used
sparingly, when it is unclear where a street begins. The overuse of audible
signals and tactile warnings will cost a great deal, and serve to give the
public the impression that the blind are incapable of independent travel.