|October 26, 2002|
Accessible pedestrian signals and detectable warnings
can help to ensure that every blind person regardless of their skill level, can
have access to the information provided to sighted pedestrians. I know this for
a fact, because I have been visually impaired for the past thirteen years and
totally blind for the past six.
I am not a member of either of the major advocacy groups for the blind, but I am sure that what I have to say has as much merit. I am a member of a more elite group of blind people. I was a member of the past two-paralympic teams for the USA. I own three national records in track and field. I have long jumped farther, and thrown the discus farther than any other totally blind person in the country. I also have the record in the multiple event, the pentathlon. I am what some like to refer to the super-blind. I also have two degrees in Engineering and am planning to pursue my doctorate after the next Paralympics. Any assistance that I can use to navigate this sighted world only helps in my mobility. I am one of the very few blind people that can quickly and effectively travel in our society. I have extraordinary spatial orientation and balance and a phenomenal memory. Unfortunately, very few others can do this. The skills that are required to navigate very well are probably apparent in five percent or less of the blind people trying to travel. This is the major reason you see few blind people traveling by themselves. It is hard to do so and it is also dangerous and scary.
Providing accessible pedestrian signals and detectable warnings will help everyone navigate and travel much more easily. The tactual and auditory cues that they provide cannot only allow us to travel, they can keep us “alive”. I feel that I take my life in my hands each time I attempt to go to work and come home. I have to look out for drivers and myself that do not pay attention. I call it defensive cane driving. I have still come close to getting hit on several occasions. With the assistance of accessible pedestrian signals and detectable warnings, some of the apprehensiveness I have to traveling could be alleviated.
In closing, I would like to emphatically state that accessible pedestrian signals and detectable warnings are “wanted and needed” by blind people. Do not let the comments of a few condemn the rest of us to a life of fear and danger.
US Record holder: discus, pentathlon, long jump (indoors)
2001 pan Am Games for the blind Silver medalist
2000 US paralympic team
1998 IBSA World Championship team
1996 US paralympic team
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