October 25, 2002
I am a 54-year-old blind individual, who has worked in the fields of education,
rehabilitation and civil rights for the past thirty years. Because of work, I
have lived in various parts of the country and travel both for business and
pleasure frequently. I am an independent traveler, who uses a long white cane.
I am opposed to the rule making being promulgated by the access board concerning
audible street signals and tactile markings. In my experience, audible street
signals are unsafe for blind persons. No one should cross a street unless that
individual, whether sighted or blind, depends on the flow of traffic. Any blind
person who depends on an audible street signal to cross a street is placing
himself or herself in an unsafe position. In addition, it is my experience that
audible street signals are distracting. I find them not only annoying, but they
serve as a distraction to my listening to the flow of traffic. In Seattle,
audible street signals would serve no purpose. I have had the opportunity to
travel in most of the large metropolitan areas in the country, and audible
street signals would be useless there. I know a lot of blind people, and they
share my opinion.
Not only are audible street signals unsafe and counterproductive, but they are
costly. The cost to the community is astounding. I find it hard to believe that
the access board would impose these costs during this time of fiscal restraint.
In most areas of this country, public transportation is lacking in funds and is
facing more financial cuts. It is beyond my comprehension why the access board
would consider the cost for useless equipment, when the money would be better
spent on public transportation. Also, 70% of blind people are either unemployed
or underemployed. Would it not be wiser to be concerned about job access for the
blind rather than unnecessary, unsafe and custodial equipment specially designed
for the blind.
There are those who argue that many blind people do not travel well because of
lack of training, and so audible street signals should be installed to assist
these individuals. This is certainly an argument without any logic or basis. In
crossing streets, safety is the primary concern, whether the individual is blind
or sighted, whether the individual be a child or an adult. Audible street
signals do not increase the safety of a blind person crossing the street,
especially if that person is not adequately trained in independent travel. If
training in independent travel is the problem, then the only solution is more
training for that individual, not an audible street signal.
It is my contention that the audible street signal is the manifestation of
custodial attitudes about blind people and a prejudice that they cannot be fully
independent members of the community.
In general, I am opposed to tactile markings. It is my experience and belief
that the world does not need to be modified for the blind. However, a very
limited use of tactile markings may be appropriate, depending on the
circumstances of the situation. An example would be a street corner where the
street and sidewalk are flush. Tactile markings at ramps and other such areas
are completely unnecessary.
In the final analysis, I implore you to reject the proposed rules concerning
audible street signals and tactile markings. Consider what is really needed for
the blind. Consider what is cost effective, and listen to the voices of the
blind as spoken through the National Federation of the Blind.