Donald J. Morris
|September 27, 2002|
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am 64 years old, and for the past fifteen years have been totally blind. As a blind person I have traveled in 47 of the 50 United States. I have traveled in England, France, Scotland, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Canada and Africa. I have likewise traveled in Japan. Nowhere on earth in my ravels as a blind person have I been more unsafe than in Tokyo. Bumpy strips abound. There are so many bumpy strips, they are absolutely meaningless. When I asked Japanese friends why bumpy strips were laid literally from one end of the block to the other. They assured me that was for blind people to walk on (as opposed to being alerted by). I soon discovered the bumpy strips are not comfortable to walk on. This revelation occurred to Japanese pedestrians both blind and sighted long before I arrived in Tokyo. My observation is that no one walks on the bumpy strips. With very heavy automobile traffic in the streets, Japanese bicycles ride on the vacant bumpy strips.
In Shinjuku Train Station in Tokyo, there are a myriad of escalators and stairs. Once again bumpy strips abound. It is just about impossible to avoid stepping on the bumpy strips accept for the approximately 20% of the stairways, which do not have bumpy strips. From my personal experience it is far simpler to ignore all bumpy strips and use a good travel technique arcing my long white cane.
As regards chirping traffic lights -- in Yokohama, virtually every street we crossed had some sort of a signal whose principal purpose seemed to be entertainment of people waiting to cross the streets. They offered, by my count at least six different bird sounds none of which seemingly mean anything except that somewhere, someplace a traffic signal has changed color or is about to.
Bottom line is, I think it is foolishness to try to redesign the world to avoid teaching blind people good travel skills. While the intentions of your group maybe very well meant they are a pain in the neck. If you have questions please contact me.
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