Patricia A Kepler
|September 18, 2002|
I read yesterday that members of the NFB are launching a letter writing campaign to attempt to persuade the access board against Audio pedestrian traffic devices. As a independent blind traveler, I wanted to take the opportunity to let my own feelings be heard.
I was successful in petitioning my state for an "APS for a crossing that I must cross daily. This is a busy mid block crossing, with no parallel traffic to help me out. When I first moved here it was a quiet street, and was not a concern to me, but as the area grew, so did the traffic and it was no longer a crossing that I felt I could safely cross.
I regularly give presentations on disabilities to my local schools. Many of the children I have spoken to have asked about the signal and several have told me that they feel safer crossing there now that it sends off an alert.
There are some that say there is no such thing as an intersection that people with good traffic skills can't cross. The fact is, that not all blind people are capable of developing those skills, just like not all drivers are equal. They are good enough to pass that test and get on the road, but there are certain things society has adopted, such as road signs, traffic lights and cross walks to give them visual reminders of what they should be doing. We would not ask our sighted children to cross a busy intersection that was not properly lighted for them. Why should a blind person be denied the audio cues to alert them to the changed light?
I do a lot of travel and have found that APS in unfamiliar areas have helped me orient myself to my new surroundings independently. Last summer I traveled to Oakland Ca, for the first time in many years. I was impressed by how accessible the city has become and easy it was for me accustom myself to my new surroundings and get to my many destinations with minimal assistance from strangers. The audio signals made it easy for me to determine traffic patterns and spared me the need to wait two or three light cycles to determine if there turning signals, separate lights for north and south traffic, or even if there was a signal at all.
Many blind individuals hesitate before traveling into an area they have not received formal orientation in. The increase of APS will give many people the courage to venture into unfamiliar territory.
Since I have no residual vision, I would appreciate it if the button locator feature would become a standard part of the APS. I have discovered that there is no rhyme or reason behind where the cross pole is place at an intersection; especially T intersections. A locator signal would allow me to confidentially approach the pole and activate the signal without the need to grope around or swing my cane in search of the pole.
The increased popularity of light rail systems nationwide has been a long time concern of mine. At least in Oregon the bells that ring as the gates go down turn off as soon as the gates are blocking traffic. These gates do not block pedestrians. So, we have quiet trains and no signal, either audio or tactile to let us know we should stop walking and wait for the train. In my area we often will have the east bound train go by and then the west bound train will come shortly after. A blind person could easily think it is safe to cross the tracks after hearing one train only to be struck by the second. An APS at these crossing could save many lives. Not just blind pedestrians, but anyone who is in a hurry and might not think to wait for a second train. Four years ago a sighted 14 year old boy was killed under these very circumstances not too far from my house.
Thank you for taking the time to read my Letter.
Patricia A Kepler
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