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Blind Pedestrians Hail ‘Good First Step’ on Traffic

Jeff Outhit
Record staff Tue Jan 29 2013

WATERLOO REGION — Visually impaired pedestrians will get yellow paint, textured asphalt and noisemaking signals to help them cross our busiest streets, but not everywhere and not right away.

After a year-long review, regional councillors agreed Tuesday to begin implementing accessibility upgrades on commuter routes, drawing mixed praise from advocates for the disabled.

“I love the initiatives they’re taking but things are not going fast enough,” said Dawn Clelland, whose daughter Alyssa is blind. “It’s a good first step.”

“I know eventually our city will be accessible,” said Carrie Speers, who is visually impaired. But she understands government constraint “when money is an issue.”

The taxpayer cost is estimated at $1 million over five years pending budget approval. It would cost $42 million to upgrade all pedestrian crossings and intersections, politicians were told.

Accessibility features for people with low vision or low hearing include:

  • A pedestrian-activated crosswalk outside a roundabout — but only on request and only if there’s no other way for a blind pedestrian who regularly walks there to cross safely. The roundabout would keep regular crosswalks at the circle.
  • Push-button signals that make noise at traffic signals, and crosswalks painted with stripes. Noisemaking signals are already installed at some intersections on request, and “ladder crosswalks” are currently painted where there are many pedestrians or collisions.
  • Strips, grooves or textures in asphalt to guide canes at sidewalks and in crosswalks. This is already being tested at Frederick and Edna streets in Kitchener, to assess how it holds up in winter.
  • Yellow-painted curbs at pedestrian islands, and redesigned right-turn channels that force cars to slow down. Right turns that slow vehicles are currently in place at two Kitchener intersections, including Fairway Road and Manitou Drive.

Traffic planners have rejected calls to put traffic-stopping signals in roundabouts, saying the signals would confuse drivers and be disregarded by pedestrians unwilling to wait for the light. They continue to study raised crosswalks at roundabouts and are considering calls for more disabled parking on regional roads.

Reproduced from–blind-pedestrians-hail-good-first-step-on-traffic