The value of audible pedestrian signals should not be underestimated, says one of the city’s leading advocates for visually impaired people.
Todd Harding, recently recognized for his years of advocacy with the mayor’s advisory committee for persons with disabilities, pointed that out Wednesday as the City announced activation of the special crossing signals along Columbia Street a year after they were installed.
“Independence is something that is very important to us all and certainly means different things for different people,” Harding said.
“I have been blind for 36 years and travelling independently is a very major piece of my day-to-day activities. Audible traffic signals play a huge role in safe, independent travel for blind and visually-impaired people. The sense of safety and confidence that one gets when you know the light is in your favour is really hard to describe.”
The new signals assist visually-impaired pedestrians at crossings through use of a voice-activated message.
As part of last year’s Columbia Street widening project, audible pedestrian signals were installed on Columbia Street at the intersections along the downtown corridor. Not all of the signals were activated at that stage due to a safety concern, that visually impaired pedestrians might hear the signal on the opposite side of the road and think it was safe to cross.
To address this concern, prior to activating the audible signals, the City consulted with the City’s traffic advisory committee, the mayor’s advisory committee, the Canadian Institute of the Blind and the White Cane Club.
As well, several on-site tests were done with visually-impaired pedestrians at different times of the day to determine safe signal speaker volumes. The City also consulted with nine other B.C. municipalities that use audible pedestrian signals at locations with advanced left-turn phases.
The signals are located at crossings between 3rd and 6th avenues.