[NFBV-Potomac-Announce] FW: Summary of audible crosswalk signal survey

John Halverson jwh100 at outlook.com
Wed Jun 14 17:24:50 UTC 2023

From: LeRoy Hansen <leroy.t.hansen at gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2023 12:57 PM
To: John Halverson <jwh100 at outlook.com>
Subject: Summary of audible crosswalk signal survey

Hello everyone.  I am LeRoy Hansen, a member of the blind and visually impaired community of Arlington County.  A few months ago, I asked many of you to respond to a survey on your preferences for audible-crosswalk signals. I was motivated to carry out the survey when I learned that Arlington County was moving to a nonverbal percussive signal and justified this change, in part, by stating that it was the audible signal those who are blind or have impaired vision most prefer. Here is a summary of the survey results.

But first, if you forwarded my previous email where I requested individuals to participate in the survey, please forward this email to the same individuals.

First, one very significant finding was that most respondents, fifty out of fifty-four, preferred an audible cross walk signal that announces the name of the street. Two preferred a percussive signal; two preferred hearing “Walk Sign is on”.  Additionally, a large majority of the respondents, eighty one percent, least liked the percussive signal.

Second, most respondents, ninety seven percent, wanted an audible countdown of the time remaining to cross the street.

These two results directly contradict what Arlington County officials have said.

Third, individuals were asked whether crosswalk signals and/or countdown signals were too loud. Seventy five percent felt the audible crosswalk signal with the street name were about right. Likewise, seventy two percent felt the countdown signals were about right while only one person felt that the countdown signal was too loud. This result again contradicts Arlington County officials who said that those blind or with impaired vision do not want to hear audible signals because it drowns out traffic noise.

Fourth, fifty eight percent of the respondents found the push-buttons for crosswalk signals were hard to find. The fact that 42 percent do not find crosswalk signals hard to find might reflect at least in part familiarity with certain intersections.  That is, individuals that tend to go to the same cross walks know where the buttons are.

About half of the respondents left comments, with several individuals leaving more than one. The largest category of comments was concerns of the dangers imposed by eliminating audible crosswalk signals that announce street names:  Some specific comments included: (1) certain intersections, such as those with multiple roads merging or multiple lanes would be particularly dangerous, (2) people would be confined to their home because Arlington would not be walkable and (3) young children of vision impaired parents would also face a greater chance of injuries and death.

Multiple comments emphasized the advantage of, or need for, audible countdown signals.

There were several commenters that asked why information given to sighted people is not given to those with impaired vision. That is, people with vision see which crosswalk signal is on and the time remaining to cross the road.

Additional comments not related to safety included: (1) a request for a phone number for calling in repairs, (2) directional arrows aid orientation, (3) vibration of the arrows is very helpful. (4) individuals offered to assist Arlington County in developing safer cross walk signals.

To help County decision makers fully understand the challenges the visually impaired face, one individual suggested county decisionmakers should wear eye coverings and try crossing a variety of intersections.

Finally, one individual commends the county on rapid adoption of the percussive signal. This individual mistakenly believed that the MUTCD does not allow jurisdictions to move to a safer audible traffic signal. However, they must be unaware of section R102 Equivalent Facilitation of the document which says:

“R102 Equivalent Facilitation. The use of alternative designs, products, or technologies that result in substantially equivalent or greater accessibility and usability than the requirements in this document is permitted.”

Note that when I pointed this out to Andrew Haze, Senior Traffic Engineer for Arlington County he seemed to agree but said that there would need to be an engineering study to verify that a signal that announces the street name is safer.

The results of this survey provide strong evidence that both a crosswalk signal that announces the name of the street and an audible countdown signal make crossing streets safer.  I believe your input is especially valuable because we in Arlington County, have, over the years, had considerable exposure to each of these signals.  Hence, we provide a well-informed population.

Thank you for participating in the survey,

LeRoy Hansen
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