|September 20, 2002|
From 1976 to 1980 I lived in Washington, D. C. One night I was sitting in the apartment of a blind friend when I heard a loud piercing sound which was repeated at regular intervals. Puzzled I asked my friend to explain what this loathsome sound was. He explained this was an audible traffic signal for blind persons. Still puzzled my friend explained that the purpose of these noisome objects was to assist blind persons in crossing streets. The audible traffic signal was on fourth and I streets in Southwest Washington D. C. across the street from a shopping mall.
In today's political climate it is said that the cost of devices is no object. If assistive devices are needed for blind people and other persons with disabilities these devices should be provided. The safety of blind pedestrians is paramount and objections of nondisabled persons based on costs or aesthetic considerations are irrelevant. The idea is full speed ahead; I don't care what you think, don't confuse me with the facts.
The next day I decided to go to the shopping mall. When I stood on the corner of fourth and I the audible traffic signal was even louder. The sound was deafening.
I tried to block out the sound and crossed when I believed the traffic was in my favor. I felt sorry for my sighted neighbors who had to put up with this deafening racket. I would bet that when they saw me and other blind persons walking the streets they viewed the audible traffic signals with mixed emotions. I am sure they wanted to help us but must have been perplexed regarding why they had to put up with that God-awful sound.
To gain a clearer perspective on this subject I would suggest that you consult with Dr. Marc Maurer and members of the National Federation of the Blind who have studied this matter in detail. You may contact Dr. Maurer at [...]. You should also contact Lucas Frank of Seeing Eye Inc. who has written papers regarding environmental issues. Mr. Frank may be contacted at [...]
I greatly appreciate your consideration of these comments. I am sure the comments of many proponents of audible traffic signals are well meaning but I can tell you from personal experience that audible traffic signals are not helpful and may even cause harm to blind pedestrians.
Equal Opportunity Specialist
U. S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
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