Jonathan E. Ice
|October 2, 2002|
I am writing to register my dismay at requests being made by some blind people and others, that truncated domes be placed at all intersections and audible pedestrian signals be installed at all controlled intersections. In my view, these porposals are impractical, indefensibly expensive, and likely to pose greater danger to blind (and sighted) pedestrians.
I myself am blind, and a fairly proficient cane traveler. I have not found crossing intersections to be inordinately scary or dangerous, using the normal blindness skills of following audible traffic patterns, detecting dips and curbs to know when I am approaching intersections. With the advent of multiple-phase traffic signals and traffic-actuated signals, there may be a legitimate case for installation of audible traffic signals at particularly complex intersections, but widespread adoption of such devices is not wise. Likewise, truncated domes or some other detectable warning may be needed in places where curb cuts have become so gradual in slope that there is no tactual warning that a blind traveler is approaching the curb, but in most instances such devices are totally unnecessary.
Those exceptions allowed, however, here are my objections to widespread adoption of these "improvements":
-- In northern climates, they will serve as a trap for snow and ice in winter months, and it will be impossible to clear such hazards, thereby posing greater danger to everyone.
-- In rain, truncated domes are more slippery than a flat surface.
-- Retrofitting all intersections with truncated domes will incur great expense, for no or negligible benefit.
Audible pedestrian signals
-- Though the latest versions of APS are much improved over their predecessors, there still is the problem that they add extra noise into the environment, noise that may obscure important traffic noise cues that are essential for safe crossing.
--- Retrofitting intersections for APS will be prohibitively expensive, (as with domes mentioned above) possibly inspiring a backlash against the blind and other people with disabilities.
-- Widespread installation of these devices is not necessary for blind people to cross intersections safely. However, in the eyes of many sighted people (and some blind people), the perception will grow that blind people will; be unable to negotiate intersections safely without such devices. Thus, our perceived mobility will be reduced.
-- Proponents of widespread use of these devices assert with great drama that "there are blind poeple out ther who are dying," because intersections are not "properly" engineered. It is my expectation that more blind people will lose their lives if intersections are domed and audibly signaled, because blind peole with poor or nonexistnet traveling skills -- who to this point have been reluctant to move out into intersections unescorted -- will gain a false sense of safety and security because of the presence of these devices, and unwittingly meet their demise in greater numbers.
-- Many of those who are currently uncomfortable with travel are those who are uncomfortable with their own blindness. That is a normal stage for any newly blinded person, but one where the person is ashamed or embarrassed to appear in public with a white cane in hand. If they are encouraged to shed their normal sense of caution due to a supposedly safe engineeered environment, they will put themselves in greater danger, as motorists will not know they are blind, as there is no visible indication of their status.
In sum, I think it is unwise to have widespread installation of special tactile warnings or audible pedestrian signals in this country, and I hope the board rules against widespread adoption of such devices.
Jonathan E. Ice
Iowa Department for the Blind
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