Pedestrian Information

OVERVIEW

Those of us who are blind or visually impaired can learn to navigate streets independently.  We use traffic sounds for orientation as to our direction of travel.  It may surprise you that busy intersections give us more information than those with a relatively low amount of traffic, especially when drivers are obeying the rules of the road.

It is our hope, on this page, to provide information about local street work accessibility as well as to include general information about national guidelines for best practice in the design of intersections and sidewalks.

There is much street work happening now and for the foreseeable future in Walla Walla.  We plan to update this page frequently for the benefit of our members and others who find us as well.

We are not an official site sanctioned by the City of Walla Walla and our information, in spite of our best efforts, will not be the most current information available. To access the official Walla Walla site regarding current street work, go to http://gowallawalla.us/.

PEDESTRIAN SIGNALS ALONG ALDER

The Union Bulletin published an article on November 6 about the new signals along Alder that has generated many comments.

http://m.union-bulletin.com/news/2015/nov/06/understanding-walla-wallas-new-crosswalk-babble/

We were pleased for the recognition to make our street crossings more accessible, but we did notice some questions that we feel should be addressed:

  • NEED FOR PUSHBUTTONS: pushbuttons are not generated by the needs of blind or visually impaired pedestrians—rather they are needed because the signal cycle may have some degree of responsiveness to the current situation.  Few cars—shorter timing.  Pedestrians –longer timing.  Pedestrians need to “tell” the computerized system of their presence by a simple press of the button.
  • SAFETY: The visual or auditory walk signal does not insure safety for pedestrians–drivers may not heed the signals.  Think of the walk sign information as “If you want to chance crossing, this is your moment.” It only indicates that a pedestrian will have enough time to complete the crossing traveling at a pre-determined speed.  This is spelled out for the engineers in their Manual of Uniform Traffic Devices (MUTCD).
  • NOISE: The locator tone sounds so that a blind person can locate the pole and press the button.  It is important that this tone is not silenced, but the sound should only be heard a relatively short distance from the corner or crossing and not from half way down the block.
  • VERBAL AND VIBROTACTIL INFORMATION: There can be several ways to configure the software for the accessible signals.  Here, they are set to only give verbal and vibrotactile feedback if the button is pressed and held for a few seconds.  Sighted people who do not need the audible information can avoid the extra noise by pressing the button without holding it pressed.

REFERENCES

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) has published a book giving information about the needs of blind and visually impaired pedestrians to travel safely.  The online version is free at the ACB web site.  Find it at http://acb.org/node/611.

The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) spells out in great detail how public streets and sidewalks are to be designed.  There is a section on guidelines for the installation of accessible pedestrian signals (APS).  Find it at
http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009/part4/part4e.htm#contenttext.

The US Access Board is available to assist individuals and communities to work through issues that lack clarity. Find them at
US Access Board
1331 F Street NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 272-0045
www.Access-Board.gov

Here is a link to an article from the US Access Board.