|October 4, 2002|
I am writing to express strong opposition for the proposed guideline for placing an audible traffic signal at every intersection with a traffic light. I have been totally blind all of my life. Growing up, I lived in a medium sized town with a few traffic lights. I learned to cross the streets with traffic lights safely by listening to the flow of traffic. It was easy to tell when the light turned and it was safe for me to walk across the street. I strongly believe that traffic flow is the best way to tell if the light has changed at simple intersections such as the one's in the town in which I grew up. Not only that, but I am sure that adding audible signals would be much too expensive for many smaller towns and cities across the country. Therefore, traffic lights would be replaced by stop signs in many instances, making it less safe for all pedestrians to travel.
In college I lived in a larger city. Again, I found it easy to tell when it was safe to cross at controlled intersections by using traffic cues. I also realized how much noise can be present on a city street. I believe that audible signals at every intersection would add needlessly to the noises which already exist. The signals would be distracting, and having so many going at one time would make paying attention to the correct signal a challenge.
I also question the wisdom of teaching blind people to rely on these signals to tell them when it's safe to cross a street. What if a signal is broken? What if it malfunctions? If a blind person has learned to rely on these signals and does not pay attention to traffic patterns he or she will be more likely to be hurt if a signal malfunctions than if that signal was never installed at all.
I also oppose the use of truncated domes at every intersection. The vast majority of the time, a curb or ramp is all that is needed to tell me that there is a street ahead. I travel with a guide dog the majority of the time, and a long white cane when I am not using my dog. Both methods are effective in giving me clues that there is a street ahead. Again, adding these domes adds expense to cities and towns where staying within a budget is often difficult when simply meeting the needs of annual street maintenance. I also find many domes slippery, especially when they are wet. Therefore, I see them as more of a danger than a help most of the time.
Do I believe that audible signals and truncated domes should never be used? Absolutely not. But I believe these things should be used only when blind residents of a community see the need and ask for them.
Thank you for reading these comments, and for taking them into consideration.
President, Wisconsin Association of Blind Students
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