|September 18, 2002|
I would like to speak in support of the Public Rights of Way Accessibility Committee (PROWAC) report on detectable warnings and accessible pedestrian signals (APS. Both of these devices are important to the safe travel of people who are blind or visually impaired. I will discuss each device separately.
First of all, I would like to give you some background on me. I am blind but have some light perception. I have never had perfect vision and lost a good deal of what I once had later in life. I also have a mild to moderate hearing loss for which I wear hearing aids bilaterally.
Detectable warnings are important because they provide me with clues about my environment. In a railroad station, a detectable warning is my yellow line. I know when I am at the edge and should not go any further. I must still use good mobility skills when I am traveling. People's skill level does vary; but a person must use the skills he has.
I said that these warnings provide me useful clues about my environment. when I am walking on a train platform, I have more confidence if there is a detectable warning than I do if there is not a detectable warning. This is important to me, especially when you consider that train stations are noisy and background moise makes it more difficult for me to know what is going onnn because sounds can and are drowned out by engine noise. Last Saturday Septemmber 14, 2002, I was waiting for a commuter train at the Glen Ellyn station. Afreight train came through just as I was arriving on the platform. I became disoriented and was not sure which way I was facing. After the train left, I used the detectable warning along the track and in front of the station door to determine where I was. As a result of doing this, i regained my orientation and was fine from there.
As for Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS), they are good at intersections which are extremely dangerous to cross. We have at least one intersection like this in my community. There is a lot of traffic at this intersection. This intersection does need an APS. I have never crossed this intersection on my own and nevner will. APS not only help people who are blind or visually impaired, they help senior citezens, school -age children, and others with disabilities. They give all of these people extra assurance that they will make it across safely when using good sound judgement and proper safety and mobility sills. Vibrotactile technology can hellp some who are deaf-blind make it as well. Please keep in mind that the term "deaf-blind" does not just refer to a complete loss of both senses; but also refers to a combination of a complete loss of vision and partial loss of hearing or vice versa. While I do not know how much these signals will help me due to background noise, I know they will help others stay safe when crossing at dangerous intersections. These intersections must be determined by the community with input from its residents.
It is time for us to have equal access to our environment. We deserve the same information that the sighted world gets. A detectable warning is our yellow line; and an APS gives us information in a nonvisual form which the sighted world receives in a visual form. It is our safety and access to the comunity we are talking about here.
Thank you very much for your time, attention, and strong support for detectable warnings and APS. Our safety does matter. I will be watching this issue very closely to make sure that my safety, as well as the safety of those close to me, is protected.
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