|September 25, 2002|
I am completely blind and have been all my life.
Yet, I safely cross many intersections in downtown Phoenix (a large metropolis) every day, and do so quite comfortably. With the use of a white cane and listening to the flow of traffic, I cross intersections independently, without relying on any assistive devices, such as the audible traffic signals proposed.
If such signals were installed along my route to work, I would feel much less secure, and would probably have to rely on sighted people to help me cross some of the busier streets. The reason I say this is that ALL of my close calls with getting struck by cars in intersections have been due to the drivers' lack of attention, as I was always crossing with the light and in the crosswalk. Introducing high-pitched loud noises through these audible traffic signals would make it more difficult to listen for oncoming cars, and thereby make it very hazardous to cross on my own. I belong to the nation's largest organization of blind people, the National Federation of the Blind; and, in talking with several other blind individuals, I have found that my experiences and perceptions are by far the norm rather than the exception.
So, why spend lots of money (I hear around $4,000 per signal), to limit blind people's mobility and jeopardize their safety, while subjecting the rest of population to a unnecessary nuisance. The only acceptable signals to install would be those that vibrate rather than chirp or beep. And, since most blind people don't need any assistive devices of any kind, if any special signals are installed it should be on a very limited basis, such as on complicated intersections (6-way or worse). Rather than throwing millions of dollars at a large-scale audible traffic signal installation, I firmly believe that the blind community would be benefited far more by channeling that money into improving and expanding the rehabilitation programs.
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