New York City Installs Crosswalk Signals with Sound to Aid the Visually-Impaired and the Distracted

New York City Installs Crosswalk Signals with Sound to Aid the Visually-Impaired and the Distracted

 By Yehudit Garmaise

  How do visually-impaired people know when to cross busy city streets when the crosswalk signals of the white, walking man and the red, raised hand are not accessible to them?

   Blind New Yorkers say that before setting off to cross the street, they listen carefully to the sounds of traffic to stop, so that they know when the road is clear.

   However, the reduction in traffic the pandemic has caused has made traffic’s auditory cues harder to decipher.

    To remedy the problem, a court-ordered New York City two months ago, to install crossing signals that are audible to help visually impaired pedestrians cross city streets safely.

    In what will help both visually-impaired New Yorkers and other pedestrians, as well, at least one one “talking” crosswalk signal has been installed so far: at the corner of 86th Street and Broadway.

    “When the walk sign is on, [A voice] will tell you that it's safe to cross,” said disability rights attorney Torie Atkinson, who noted that audible crosswalk technology is not new, but it has been under-utilized.

    The first audible traffic signal was installed in Queens in the 1950s, explained Atkinson, who brightened when she said that the audible crosswalks will greatly improve the lives and the safety of all New Yorkers, and not just the visually-impaired community.

     “Accessibility always helps everyone,” said Atkinson, who pointed out that when the city cut down curbs to ease the use of wheelchair users, everyone with luggage and baby strollers enjoyed the flattened curbs.

   Similarly, pedestrians are on the phones, or they are looking around, she said, and everyone will benefit when they hear audio signals that tell them when to cross.

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