|September 27, 2002|
Dear Board Members:
Literally thousands of blind individuals travel safely and confidently to and from their destinations every day. Proper orientation and mobility training in the use and technique of a white cane will result in the ability to travel freely and independently. This is the best safeguard the blind can take to ensure our safety. Because we are capable travelers we believe the need for audible pedestrian signals and detectable warnings have been greatly exaggerated.
This is a controversial issue. Everyone has an opinion, or at least everyone in the blind community has one. It is my firm belief that the vast majority of accidents involving blind persons crossing streets are caused by careless drivers. Those same careless drivers who arenít paying attention to the color of the traffic signals, or pedestrian walk lights that are already installed. I fail to see how these devices will stop these reckless drivers. The opposition is using a statistic that in one year twenty-six blind persons were killed while crossing streets. This is indeed a tragedy. It is just as tragic for the sighted people who lost their lives at the hands of negligent automobile operators.
I heard a gentleman expressing a view that audible signals could actually be helpful to drivers who have difficulty seeing traffic signals when driving toward the sun. His next statement was how newer technology has made these signals quieter and more environmentally friendly. Now tell me, just how loud would such a device have to be for someone in a car, with the windows rolled up, the radio on, and the kids fighting in the back seat have to be in order for it to be heard?
In addition to audible pedestrian signals at every intersection the draft guidelines require locator tones so that the APS can be found. This would mean that there would be 8 beeping points of sound at every intersection. The effect that all of this noise might have on our ability to travel safely has never been addressed. Good travelers rely on all sorts of audible clues from our surroundings. However, I believe to clutter the environment with unnecessary noise would impede the blind traveler. These signals would block the sound of traffic, which is the most reliable and important one.
To install detectable warnings at every crosswalk is absurd. Any surface with a slope of greater than 1-15 can be readily detected. To use a truncated dome surface at crosswalks and intersections is also ludicrous, not to mention dangerous. Such a surface will only give way to a variety of injuries to all of us.
The installation of audible pedestrian signals, audible locators, and detectable warning devices at every intersection and crosswalk throughout this nation would be cost prohibitive. The money could be better spent providing adequate orientation and mobility for every blind and visually impaired person in the United States.
Please consider these and other comments made by my NFB Colleagues and friends. We believe our views and opinions take a more rational and practical approach to this volatile issue. The approach taken by those who support such environmentally evasive and useless gadgets strikes fear in the hearts of the blind traveler, and Mr. John Q. Public who sees us on the street.
Cathy Jackson, President
National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky
Board Member, National Federation of the Blind
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