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Watch for me, NC! It’s the law.

August 18, 2012

Today’s post is from  Holly Mabry of  Accessibility and Technology Geek.  Follow Holly on twitter at @accesstechgeek1

Pedestrians, whether they have a visual impairment or not, always get the right of way. This is the law. Based on observations, I don’t think many are consciously aware that this is a law.

The US is a very car-centric country, and the Triangle area is no exception. This area provides good public transit via bus and train services, and offers bike and walk options. However, getting around without a car still presents quite a challenge.

Watch for Me NC’s goal is reduce the number of pedestrians hit and injured in crashes with vehicles. Learn more about the campaign at http://www.watchformenc.org/

I cannot drive because of my vision loss, so my primary mode of transportation is by foot. The Southpoint Mall area of Durham offers many grocery, entertainment, healthcare, and workforce options, as well as great bike and walking trails. I walk to the bus stop, gym, grocery store, and other places near me that are within reasonable walking distance.

Considering how often I travel by foot, street crossings are inevitable. In a world where everyone is in a hurry, or distracted by numerous things such as cell phones, texting and even eating, it has become a lot more dangerous to navigate even the most well marked intersections.

The intersections that I cross always have a crosswalk, and usually have a walk signal. Despite these safety precautions, I still encounter situations that put me in danger. Many people turning try to cut in front of me before I finish crossing, or sit in the middle of the crosswalk. Sitting in the middle of the crosswalk forces me to walk in the middle of the intersection to finish crossing.

Pedestrians, whether they have a visual impairment or not, always get the right of way. This is the law. Based on observations, I don’t think many are consciously aware that this is a law. For more information about this law and more resources on related to this topic, see the Watch for Me campaign website.

There are several indicators that drivers can watch out for to help blind or partially sighted pedestrians safely cross the street:

  1. White cane – A white cane has a black handle, white body, and red tip. People who are blind use this for navigation purposes. There is also a skinnier version that serves as an identification cane.
  2. Monocular – This is similar to a binocular, but for one eye. It can be used to see things from a longer distance away such as the walk signal or traffic light. I find that the monocular helps alert drivers in my situation better because it is more obvious when I’m using it that I need assistance to see.
  3. Seeing eye dog – Many blind pedestrians use a dog to help them navigate. They usually have a special harness or vest to indicate that they are service dogs.

Often none of these indicators are there to alert drivers. Pedestrians with vision loss can use these to make drivers more aware of them, even if they aren’t fully needed. The awareness goes both ways. I hope that pedestrians and drivers alike will work together to create a more pedestrian friendly environment.

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Do you have a story about alt-transit that you’d like to share? Let us know! Email info@gotriangle.org or leave a note in the comments.

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