|September 19, 2002|
Dear Access Board members,
I am writing in fervent support of the installation of audible pedestrian signals and tactile warning strips wherever possible to do so. While I have no new words to contribute to these debates and standards, I do wish to add my voice to those who understand the need for pedestrian safety. Likewise, I would like to add my voice to those within the greater community of blind people who oppose what we've all come to know as "the NFB stance" on such matters. It is no longer 1950, where every street corner, controlled by a light, is a typical "plus intersection," with a predictable and static stoplight, and frequented by rumbling automobile engines. Street crossing at even moderately traveled intersections has become a complex matter of negotiating traffic sounds coupled with ever quieter automobiles, dynamic and unpredictable traffic light controls, pie-shaped curb-cuts which spill the blind pedestrian obliquely onto the street, and motorists intent upon disregarding pedestrians in their environment.
I am totally blind. However, I am active in my community. I own a successful out-patient Physical Therapy and Rehab center. I am currently the President of our public library district's Board of trustees. I am the Vice President of the Board of Directors of one of Illinois' regional library systems. I have just been appointed by the Illinois Secretary of State to sit on the Illinois State Library Advisory Committee. I have been cited as the "Illinois Library Trustee of the Year" for 2001. I am the President of the Board of Directors of Audio Description International.
I include these things here not to pound my chest, but to attempt to encourage anyone reading this that I am credible in my opinions. Given what I do for a living, the concepts of functioning with a disability are embedded in my day-to-day work. Given my long-term involvement with libraries, the concept of "information gathering" is near and dear to me. This is extended to environmental information, which the general public is afforded; and, which is denied to blind and visually impaired people simply through oversight and ignorance.
I live one and a quarter miles from my office. A perfect distance for me and my dog guide. I have been a dog handler for over 20 years. I am quite competent with the dog guide. However, I cannot walk to work. There is a major intersection between my home and my office. It is a complex intersection which has seen more than its fair share of automobile accidents. Were an APS to be installed at that intersection, I would be walking to work. It's just that simple.
The concept of the congenitally blind, 20-something, exquisitely trained individual, able to leap complex intersections in a single bound, is much more theoretical than real. There are very real, very average, very alive blind people; who will not remain so alive unless we all wake up to what all pedestrians need from their environments in order that they might traverse them safely. The technology is here. We simply wait for the employment of it. The extent to which it is seen as affordable is related to the extent to which we place value on the lives of blind and visually impaired people.
Thank you for reading,
Functional Therapy and Rehabilitation, P.C.
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