MAST Participates in White Cane Safety Day Activities
This October, we were happy to participate in Portland’s White Cane Safety Day activities. On October 5th, Nik represented MAST in a downtown white cane walk and an information table set up in the South Park Blocks at Portland State University. Participants could volunteer to get a mini orientation and mobility lesson with Nik or National Federation of the Blind member, Trevor Attenberg. Information about Oregon’s White Cane Laws and general information about resources and issues pertaining to civil rights for blind and low vision people were also made available. On October 15, Nik, Trevor and many others participated in the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Crosswalk Safety and Enforcement Event. We were happy to participate among other blind community leaders from the Central City Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, the Portland Chapter of the American Council of the Blind, along with representatives from Independent Living Resources and the Oregon Commission for the Blind.
White Cane Safety Day brings awareness of the abilities and independence that good mobility tools and training afford people with vision loss as well as raising awareness for the applicable traffic laws. Oregon Law is as follows:
Oregon Law (ORS 811.028) states that “Motorists are required to stop and stay stopped for pedestrians in a marked or unmarked crosswalk when the pedestrian is in the motorist’s lane or the adjacent lane.” In addition, motorists are required to stop curb to curb for a person who is blind or blind and deaf, who is carrying a white cane or accompanied by a dog guide, and is crossing or about to cross a roadway (ORS 811.035). Read the Oregon Department of Transportation brochure What You Need to Know About Oregon Crosswalk Laws.
In addition, Nik, Trevor and the other blind leaders answered questions and offered information to the Portland Bureau of Transportation in regards to the importance of working towards planning for uniform and consistently accessible traffic signaling systems for blind and deaf blind pedestrians. Currently, a frustration for low vision travelers is that placement of crosswalk signals and buttons are inconsistent. In many European countries, a crosswalk button will always be in a consistent place on the sidewalk (i.e. always directly to the right of the crossing curb cut) and the buttons that indicate which street you wish to cross are consistent. In the US, low vision travelers have to search in all directions for crosswalk buttons, and often push both buttons (going both directions) as they are not consistently placed.
In addition, the audible noises that some crosswalk signals make are often inconsistent. Some “chirp” to indicate the north or west direction is free to walk, some chirp for south and east. Some tick or beep or make other audible sounds that have no consistent indicator of what those sounds indicate. Often, they are more of a distraction for blind pedestrians as they can obscure the actual traffic sounds that need to be listened to since the audible sounds cannot be trusted. The most consistent audible crosswalk indicators actually “talk” and tell you which direction is a go for walking and these are most helpful. The most modern crosswalk indicators also provide tactile feedback for deaf blind users. By holding the button for over three seconds, the button itself will vibrate when it is safe to cross.
We support the work of many advocacy groups that are working towards consistent and modern crosswalk indicators that are clear, concise, and accessible to deaf blind users. We believe that safe travel for people who are blind, deaf blind or have low vision is a shared responsibility between us who need to be responsible and skilled travelers and society who needs to prioritize developing as much accessibility to the environment as is possible. In addition, it is the responsibility of drivers to follow all traffic laws and white cane laws. We look forward to continuing this work with our community in the months and years ahead.