Dr. Michael Gosse
|August 30, 2002|
I am writing this letter to urge the U.S. Access Board to use rational thought when adopting policies around accessible pedestrian signals and detectable warnings. As you know, this is a hot topic within the blind community. I myself am blind, and I hold a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. I know that there are technologies that can be designed to improve the ability of blind pedestrians to know when the ‘walk” signal is activated at a signalized intersection, and I know that the current technology that is available simply does not do an appropriate job. Because of my acquaintance with literally hundreds of blind people, I can tell you that most of them don’t really have a problem crossing most intersections—whether signalized or not. I can also tell you that they do have a problem with the current generation of audible traffic signals. They disrupt the environment with their constant beeping tones, and they are difficult to operate because it is not clear what one should do with the various buttons. If all that is intended is to provide an audible/tactile indication of a proper “walk” signal, then why not do just that? Have devices which simply vibrate and click very subtly yet distinctly when the light changes. It is unfortunate that many people seem to think that what is out there now works. In fact, it doesn’t. It merely generates excessive noise which often interferes with one’s ability to hear the surrounding traffic.
Requiring that the current generation of accessible pedestrian signals and detectable warnings be installed everywhere is simply irresponsible public policy. More research is yet to be done—research which recognizes the true capabilities of people who are blind.
Also, please keep in mind that you should be talking about “accessibility” not “safety.” The ability of blind people to cross a busy intersection should not be compared to the inability of a wheelchair user to climb steps. The two issues are not the same. The fact that thousands of blind people cross busy intersections every day gives the lie to the argument that signalized intersections are inaccessible to them. Yes, some intersections are more difficult to cross than others; but let’s use the proper technology--properly configured—to address the problem.
Dr. Michael Gosse
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