Good Morning Chair Vacca and Members of the Transportation Committee, my name is Lester Marks and I am the Director of Government Affairs at Lighthouse International. As you may know Lighthouse International was founded in 1905 and is dedicated to preserving vision and to providing critically needed rehabilitation services and advocacy to help people of all ages overcome the challenges of vision loss. Lighthouse recently joined the Pedestrians for Safe and Accessible Streets (PASS Coalition), a growing coalition of organizations calling for the increased installation of accessible pedestrian signals.
I would first like to point out that the New York City Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan makes no mention of people with a disability, and more specifically, people with a visual impairment. How can we talk about pedestrian safety without discussing people with a disability?
I am here to talk about the issue of accessible pedestrian signals. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Best Practices Design Guide, “accessible pedestrian signals provide redundant audible, vibrotactile, and/or transmitted information about the status of the coinciding visual pedestrian signal. Providing crossing information in a variety of formats enhances recognition and understanding of the information by all pedestrians, particularly individuals with vision or cognitive impairments and young children.”
The New York City 2010-2011 action plan includes the installation of countdown signals at 1500 intersections, but makes no mention of accessible pedestrian signals. The PASS Coalition sent a letter to the Mayor and the Department of Transportation Commissioner when the plan was released asking for a meeting to discuss the installation of APSs throughout the city, but to date, has not heard any response. Cities such as San Francisco, Portland, and Charlotte, and countries like Sweden, Japan, and Australia all have had widespread APS installation and have had them for many years. In New York City there are only a handful of intersections with APSs installed. As we address pedestrian safety, Accessible Pedestrians Signals must be part of the discussion.
I would also like to mention a bill introduced by Council Member Brewer, Introduction 183-2010- which calls for the installation of audible pedestrian signals. This is a bill we are certainly in support of and look forward to discussing in detail, with the committee, at a future date.
The installation of accessible pedestrian signals will improve safety for people with a visual impairment and must be included in any plan to improve the safety of our streets. We urge the Mayor, the Transportation Commissioner and this Committee to work with the PASS Coalition to increase the installation of APSs, and ensure the any plan to improve the safety of NYC streets is all encompassing.
Thank you for your time and continued leadership.