Kathleen A. Millhoff
|September 27, 2002|
Though I'm writing from the territory of Guam, I have traveled throughout the U.S. Mainland and many countries in Asia and Europe. Access for a blind person, as you might imagine, has been challenging in many places. However, none so challenging as the audible traffic signals you now propose to place in all intersections and crossings. As your name "Access Board" suggests, you should be concerned with the most appropriate and expedient access. For blind people, this is training - training and practice and good common sense. I have little objection to audible signals when traffic patterns and physical environment would not be cues or clues to safe travel. Such places might be where traffic signals light changes and lanes merge and overlap, where islands split traffic and sidewalks are unavailable. However, and I cannot stress this enough, in most places, a blind person who have received training and who practices independent and self assured travel skills, does not need the tweeting, hooting, bleeping, buzzing, cacophony of audible signals. I know you have the best of intentions, but some of the whining and complaining among blindness groups is truly appalling and at odds with you true concerns - that of providing access. Access is not hand-holding, it is not bleeping and blatting noise which interferes with the naturally occurring sounds which are the true and reliable cues for blind people. Please, please reconsider your choices and decisions. Ask people who really walk the streets and roads of this world unaided every day, and you will see that they agree with me - only when cues from traffic (auto or pedestrian) cannot help should an audible signal be used. Research has not shown that they are off help; research has not been done to show how much they could interfere. As a young woman on a large college campus many years ago, a man from India grabbed my arm and said: "Wear a sign saying blind. That's what they do in my country." I assure you, the blind of neither this nor other countries wishes such labeling, and audible signals come very close to such an appalling rubric.
Thank you so very much for considering my comments and concerns. Please be
assured that I and many others applaud your work and efforts and that we are
very supportive of the true access issues for blind people - training,
knowledge, skill development education.
Kathleen A. Millhoff
Vision Services Coordinator, Division of Special Education
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