|September 20, 2002|
I am writing to express my unqualified support for installation of accessible pedestrian signals at intersections where traffic engineers and local citizenry have determined that a Walk/Don't-Walk Sign is required to enhance the safety of sighted pedestrians. It seems to me that if a sighted pedestrian needs the additional assistance of a flashing sign to help determine when it is safe to initiate a street crossing, then I, as a person who cannot see, have an equal need and right to have that information at my disposal as I attempt to decide when it is safe to initiate a street crossing.
Traffic patterns as well as volume have changed dramatically over the last several decades. Now we have intersections described as multi-lane, "circles" and even "pork chops," which coupled with vast increases in the amount of vehicular traffic, and also a decrease in the amount of noise an individual vehicle makes, make crossing streets problematic for many people who are blind.
Certainly, there are those blind people who will never choose to push the button on an accessible traffic signal and therefore will never avail themselves of the additional information which such a signal can provide. That is certainly their right - as an accessible traffic signal is refusable, i.e., one can choose not to activate the accessibility features.
However, there are lots of blind people who do not feel confident or comfortable crossing streets. Too many of us have had calls that are just too close for comfort to feel completely confident in our ability to cross busy intersections which do not provide signals that can present information in an accessible format.
Too many blind people have been killed or badly hurt because of mis-judgements about when it is safe to cross a street.
For the sake of all of us who choose to lead busy, independent lives, who choose to go to work or to school, or to complete the activities of our daily lives independently, please do require the installation of *accessible pedestrian signals at intersections where information about when it is safe to initiate a pedestrian crossing is provided by Walk/Don't-Walk Signs.
The ACCESS Board is apparently also seeking comment about making detectable warnings available to indicate the presence of gently sloping ramps or other environmental situations about which a blind person needs advance notice in order to travel safely through the built environment. I am very much in favor of these devices. I have - more than once - found myself in the middle of the first lane of traffic with cars coming toward me while having presumed that I was still walking upon a sidewalk. As high curbs have disappeared - as they should - allowing people using wheelchairs and other mobility aids to travel through the built environment, unencumbered, the situation for blind travelers has become much more dangerous. Many of us have always relied upon the presence of a detectable curb to indicate the presence of a street. Now that ramps have replaced many up and down curbs, we find ourselves more and more often in unsafe situations.
Because detectable warnings are utilized on train and subway platforms, many people with visual impairments have become accustomed to realizing that a detectable warning underfoot denotes a situation in which we should exercise caution. I urge the nation's traffic engineers and civil engineers and local and municipal government entities to help us travel safely by making use of detectable warnings to denote situations, like gently sloping ramps, which can compromiser safety.. And I urge the ACCESS Board to require their use in these situations.
Thank you very much for asking the blind and visually impaired people of the USA to comment on your proposed public rights of way recommendations. I commend you for your thorough work and look forward to a day when all blind and visually impaired people will be able to travel throughout this country with safety and self confidence.
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