Saturday, July 28, 2007

Chirping crosswalks for the visually impaired!

Blind and visually-impaired people living and working in the City of Elmira say they have had several close calls using crosswalks along the city's busy streets. They say drivers often don't notice that they cannot see their fast-moving vehicles. "I've had one car stay stopped, and the car beyond them in the next lane just take off and go right in front of me," says Donna Poteat, a legally blind woman who works for the Southern Tier Association for the Visually Impaired.

"I was crossing up here on Harper and Madison, and a car came out of nowhere," says Richard Mccines, also legally blind. "I think it came from a carwash, and just spun out in front of me as I was crossing the street and just hit the tip of my cane." Now, a new signal installed around July 17th at the intersection of Clemens Center Parkway and East Church Street makes it easier for Mccines and other visually-impaired pedestrians to cross safely.

It's the first device of its kind to be installed in the Southern Tier. "It's got a chirp, a high-pitched chirping you can hear over the traffic and it gives you enough time to get across," says Mccines. Blind and visually-impaired people rely on their sense of hearing to tell when it's safe to cross. That's why it's far safer for them to rely on a chirping signalling device rather than the unpredictable sounds of moving traffic. Three more signals will be installed along the Clemens Center Parkway. The first will be installed over the next two weeks at Washington Avenue.

The next two will be at 2nd and 5th Streets. Because Clemens Center Parkway is a state-owned road, the New York State Department of Transportation will foot the bill for the devices, which cost around $1600 each. But, representatives of the Southern Tier Association for the Visually Impaired say they hope Elmira's city leaders will see the benefit and allocate some city funds to have them installed at more intersections. "There's currently no budget for it," says Joe Ponzi of S.T.A.V.I. "Right now we're in the testing phase.

We're testing to see which intersections [need them], and how effective it is." Ponzi says that if you have any suggestions about where other visually impaired signalling devices should be installed, you may contact the Southern Tier Association for the Visually Impaired at 607-734-1554.


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