Blind World Magazine

Audible traffic signals give the blind additional help at pedestrian crossings.

Paris News, Texas USA.
Friday, September 08, 2006.

Donna Conder clicks a white cane on the pavement as she nears an audible pedestrian signal at Paris' downtown Plaza, drawn to a button by a constant beep, beep, beep.

She pushes the directional button and the computer-operated signal tells the blind pedestrian when to cross the street. She feels for brick pavers with her cane and is guided by sounds coming from another device on the opposite curb.

Conder joined several other blind residents Thursday in a test run of the audible pedestrian signals, newly installed at each downtown Plaza intersection.

Texas Department of Transportation officials were on hand, as was David Ayers of Consolidated Traffic Controls of Dallas, the vendor who contracted with TxDOT to install the signals. Officials familiarized residents with the devices and made final adjustments.

"We are proud to be one of the first cities in the area to install these signals," Syd Newman, construction engineer with TxDOT's Paris Area Office, said.

Darius Samuels, transportation engineer with the local TxDOT district, explained signal operations to the group gathered at the corner of Bonham and Northwest First streets.

"You should hear the locator tone within five to six feet of the pole," Samuels said of the location of a button pedestrians push to activate the signal.

A raised arrow on the button lets the pedestrian know which direction to travel, a vibration tells the user the device is activated and a chirping sound indicates the crossing runs east and west. A coo coo sound emits from signals with north-south crossings. Tones grow louder with traffic noise and subside during quieter periods.

"Wait, wait, wait," a voice coming from the signal instructs. "Walk sign is on, walk sign is on," the voice says as the light turns green and pedestrian traffic begins to cross the street.

After several seconds, an audible countdown begins - 10, 9, 8 - letting people know how long they have to finish crossing.

"The clearance time is enough to get you from one curb to the other," Samuels said. He compared the audible countdown to signals for sighted persons. A white walk sign appears followed by a flashing red hand, which means pedestrians should no longer enter the street.

"When the hand goes solid, it means the yellow light is on and pedestrians need to get on across the street," Samuels explained.

After making several practice walks, Condor talked about the audible signals and the part the driving public can play in making the Plaza a safe place for blind pedestrians.

"These are wonderful, and we really do appreciate them," Conder said.

She thanked TXDOT officials as well as Phillip Strong, with the American Council for the Blind, and Melanie White, an orientation and mobility specialist with ACB.

"They really helped in making this possible," Conder said of the work the two did in providing information to TxDOT and working toward procurement.

Conder issued a plea to the driving public.

"We are thankful for these signals, and we hope and pray people will start seeing us more and realize what a white cane and a seeing eye dog means and watch out for us," she said.

"Any pedestrian has the right of way, but a person with a white cane needs special attention," she said. "You can step out of the way, but we can't because we don't know where to go."

End of article.

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