September 19, 2002
Dear Access Board,
As a blind citizen I would like to make comment on the proposed Accessible
Pedestrian Signals and Detectable Warnings that are currently under review.
For the most part traveling as a blind person is no more dangerous than a
sighted person traveling. There have been no disproportionate numbers of traffic
accidents involving blind people as oppose to the sighted counterparts. If there
were the media would have made a big story out of it. This is not to make any
less of those who have been killed in traffic inc1dences. These incidences have
probably occurred for reasons that are beyond knowing that the traffic light is
red or green.
Currently some cities, as Albany has done earlier this year, have installed
Accessible Pedestrian Signals without a survey of the blind or sighted citizens.
These signals do affect the lives of all that live in the city. Weather or not
the signals have been proven to be helpful or increase a blind personís travel
safety hasnít seemed to be proven here in Albany. As a matter of fact the
opposite has happened on a couple of occasions. Two similar cases that were
talked about by citizens who work downtown have talked about two different blind
people who have, until these signals were installed, always used assistance in
crossing the street where they work. Similarly, they have attempted to cross
because the Accessible Pedestrian Signal indicated that it was time to cross and
these individuals have started to cross and veer off the crossing into the
street that currently had the green light. Luckily for these individuals that
other people waiting at a bus stop witnessed this and assisted them to the bus
stop and now feel that they bad better watch out for these blind people as their
crossing the street have become more dangerous than before. This image does
spread to all blind people in the view of the citizens that see this happen and
it takes a long time for those images to go away.
Of course this is not the case with most blind people as most blind people have
used safe methods of crossing streets for years and the only thing that has
changed is that there is more noise to deal with while crossing streets with
these APS devices. The real problem with a blind person being in danger of
crossing a street is not having proper training in the methods of orientation
and mobility. The APS devices are an expensive Band-Aid approach in curing a
problem that is not as wide spread, as its proponents would make it out to be.
The money spent on these devices would be better spent on training blind people
in need of orientation and mobility training.
In the case of traffic situation where traffic patterns arenít a standard ď+ď
crossing, such as a ďTĒ intersection or a ďVĒ merger, local traffic safety
officials should hear from as many blind citizens as possible. There are some
limited situations in which these can be helped. But there are also some
situations where APS devices donít increase the safely of an already dangerous
intersection. There is one situation of this here in Albany where Washington
Ave. ends into the intersection of Eagle and State streets. Many sighted people
much less blind individuals do not traverse this intersection.
I would like to reiterate that these beeping APS have been attempted to be used
as directional devices and have nearly caused incidences here in Albany. The
cost far outweighs the usefulness in most situations. Audible Traffic Signals
make too much noise, which interfere with a blind person listening to their
surroundings while crossing and are generally unpleasant for all the public to
have to listen to. Where blind citizens who have been consulted find that there
is a need for APS, vibro-tactical APS are preferred.
Detectable warnings are also proposed and have the potential of being misused.
Any wheelchair ramp that has a slope greater than 1 inch of rise for every 15
inches of run is easily detectable with or without a cane. These Detectable
Warnings or Truncated Domes as they are also known as, have been known to be
dangerous to all when wet or when covered with leaves or when walked across with
shoes with small heels as many women wear. They will also have little to no use
in the northeast in the winter when covered with snow.
I would like to thank you for giving us blind citizens a chance to make comment
on issues that directly impact our lives. Some of the public have a lot of
misconceptions about the abilities of blind people and if the environment needs
to be drastically changed to accommodate blind people, then potential employers
will feel that the same has to be done at the work place which could jeopardize
further blind personís chance of employment. Blind people havenít achieved
equality around the nation as of yet and as well intentioned as it may be APS
devices and Detectable warnings can be a set back.