|September 12, 2002|
I'm writing to express my fervent support for the existence of tactile warnings and audible (accessible) pedestrian traffic signals in public pedestrian areas in the United States. I'm very supportive of the efforts of Charlie Crawford and Melanie Brunson from the American Council of the Blind who have sat on the Public Rights of Way Advisory committee.
Those of us who are blind are confronted by an increasingly fast-paced and dangerous pedestrian environment. In addition to the highest level of mobility training and skills that we've can acquire, we need access to the same quality of information that the sighted public takes for granted. Our safety is at stake. Using tactile warnings and accessible traffic signals does not diminish the perceived competence of blind people any more than the use of visual warnings and traffic signals diminishes the perceived competence of sighted pedestrians and drivers.
We need tactile warnings in areas such as train/subway platform edges and crosswalks on surface streets. These give us advance warning of where it is unsafe to walk. The sighted public gets that same information from brightly painted lines. Since we cannot see those lines, we need an alternative way of getting the same information.
Just as sighted pedestrians and drivers need traffic signals, we also need them. Standardized accessible traffic signals can enable us to accurately perceive the status of the traffic signal. Expecting us to safely navigate without this information would be analogous to expecting sighted people to drive and walk without any traffic lights or signs.
I've read of numerous situations lately in which a blind pedestrian has been seriously injured or killed navigating subway platforms or trying to cross streets. This is an outrage! Since we cannot drive, we must rely heavily on mass transit and we must walk in urban areas. Independent mobility is crucial when finding and keeping employment.
Be mindful that disability can happen to anyone. It could be you or a member of your family some day who is trying to cross a busy street, listening for the traffic and turning patterns, trying to figure out if and when you have the walk light, hoping you can stay in the cross walk that you can't see as you cross, trying your best not to veer into oncoming traffic, hoping you don't get hit by cars making turns, and wondering if you can walk fast enough to make it to the other side of the street before the light changes again!
Considering the facts that the general population is aging and impairments will be increasingly common, the number of people directly benefiting from a safer pedestrian environment will grow significantly in the coming decades. Please work with us to anticipate this situation and be proactive in creating a safer environment.
Audible traffic signals and tactile warnings will will undoubtedly result in a safer environment for all of us, blind and sighted alike. It has been proven that, when more than one sense is used to convey a piece of information, more people will pay attention to it. Therefore, in addition to the obvious benefit to blind people, tactile warnings and accessible traffic signals will benefit sighted people too.
I very much appreciate your support as we work toward a safer environment where tactile warnings and accessible traffic signals become routine.
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