October 8, 2002
I write as a blind citizen concerned about the safety of blind pedestrians and
as a taxpayer concerned about the use of dollars badly needed for a host of
human needs. Technology can assist blind people in travel in the same way it
helps us access computer screens and the printed page, but it will not be the
central determiner of our safety or our mobility.
I support the use of vibro-tactile signals at intersections where it is
difficult or impossible to determine the state of a light by traffic flow alone.
I do not support the use of audible signals whose tones are so loud or so long
that they obscure the sounds of the traffic since my safety is not determined by
the state of a light but by whether or not I am in the path of an oncoming
vehicle. I support a vibro-tactile signal because it will not cause hardship to
those who live near it but will, in certain locations, give me information
valuable enough to justify its cost.
I do not support the use of audible signals which will make it difficult for
those who live near because of its ever-present noise. Neither can I support
deployment of this technology at every intersection since most are perfectly
navigable without expense to all of us who pay taxes.
Lastly, I support the construction of sidewalks and streets which make clear the
transition from one to the other either by angle or texture. The installation of
truncated domes at all locations is not a good use of our money.
I support the positions of the National Federation of the Blind which represent
an understanding of the role technology and limited environmental change can
play in making better the lives of the blind, while at the same time keeping in
central focus the ability of blind people to live in the world as we find it. I
cannot endorse the thrust of the proposals now being considered, for they fail
to take account of the cost and inconvenience to the broader society and the
relative benefit of these changes to blind people who also have other needs
which must be addressed.