|Joseph Carter||September 8, 2002|
I'm writing to you regarding detectable warnings for the blind and others in potentially dangerous situations. Specifically, I would like to refute the claims of the National Federation of the Blind, which believes that things such as audible street crossings are unnecessary for our safety and harm the image of blind people's independence in the minds of our sighted peers. But the fact remains that when it comes to things like busy intersections, we do in fact need to be told when the traffic is going our way because it's extremely difficult to tell on our own with so many cars.
I am a partially sighted person myself, and I've had audible warnings on street corners help me get across such very busy intersections more than once. I do not believe that all intersections need them, however, because most intersections do not need them. Still, for those where they are needed, it is essential that they be there. It's a nightmare to cross intersections which don't have them, and I'm terrified every time I have to attempt it. I know that some people object to the noise these things make, but if the volume of the indicator is proportional to the background noise of traffic as I have seen at a few intersections in various cities, that's not such a big problem.
Some sort of warning mechanism for the blind is needed when extra caution is warrnated or when the environment is not what we would expect. When streets connect at odd angles, for example, a blind person cannot easily tell where the crosswalk is. In these cases, raised sidewalks are very helpful. Trains, trolleys, and the like which pull up to or pass where pedestrians do should (and these days usually do) have a caution-yellow space around them with raised bump patterns or other similar things which indicate to the blind that extra caution is necessary.
Warning indicators are just as necessary for the blind as for the sighted, sometimes more so. Correct applications of audible and tactile warnings where they are necessary makes the blind just that much safer and that much more independant. I cannot name specific examples of where such warnings have saved lives, but I could certainly find a number of examples where not having them has cost lives. I ask you to support them for our safety. The NFB would have you believe that training can make any unsafe place suddenly safe, but this is only true when you have the necessary information. When that is not provided, extra indicators are essential.
Thanks for reading.
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