The U.S. Congress has been holding hearings on proposed legislation entitled the "Americans with Disabilities Act". This is legislation relating to improvements in transportation to accommodate the disabled. The testimony of James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, before the House Subcommittee on Surface Transportation of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation is of particular interest to those considering audible traffic signals for the visually impaired pedestrian. Mr. Gashel's testimony addressed, among other things, a type of discrimination against the blind that may be manifested in such engineered facilities as audible traffic signals. His testimony reminds us that it is not always easy, nor wise, to serve the needs of others without a critical examination of the views of those we attempt to serve. Mr. Gashel uses audible traffic signals as an example of discrimination when he says: "...some people now assume that blind people cannot cross street intersections without special signaling devices. The devices are audible traffic signals which emit a sound cue to indicate the changing of the traffic lights. The cue is a beeping or electronic noise intended to imitate a bird-call. The modification has been promoted by persons who assume that blind people will not know when or where to cross the street if they are not given a special audible cue. But rather than being a form of assistance to the blind, this adaptation falsely presumes that blindness is an impairment to street crossing. The fact is that blind people cross streets by themselves every day without audible traffic signals. We have been doing so ever since cars, street crossings, and traffic lights were invented. The sound of the traffic and the direction of its flow give plenty of information. An audible traffic signal adds nothing, and many blind people say that the additional sounds only confuse them. Most significantly, this modification implies that the blind cannot cross ordinary streets. In this respect, it is a damaging and false public statement that the blind are disabled in ways that they are not."

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  • Corporate Authors:

    TranSafety, Incorporated

    8136 Old Keene Mill Road, Suite B-101
    Springfield, VA  United States  22152
  • Authors:
    • Anderson, R W G
  • Publication Date: 1989-10

Media Info

  • Pagination: p. 4-5
  • Serial:
    • Volume: 7
    • Issue Number: 10
    • Publisher: TranSafety, Incorporated
    • ISSN: 0884-612X

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00489769
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Nov 30 1989 12:00AM