Carbondale officials improve accessibility by installing audio crosswalks near campus
A new audio assistant crosswalk at the intersection of Wall Street and Grand Avenue last month is attracting some attention.
The new crosswalk installed by Carbondale comes with accessible pedestrian signals, which feature pushbutton locator tones, vibration and audio tones and tactile arrows for the visually impaired and citizens with other disabilities, said Don Snider, Carbondale’s traffic control supervisor.
“This is a highly recommended device in traffic safety,” Snider said. “We are placing these in the busier, more oftenly used intersections first to help traffic flow and safety.”
The audio indicator tones list the name of the street pedestrians can cross and when the walking signal is on.
For those who are hearing impaired, the city also installed vibrational indicators. Pedestrians who place their hand on the arrow will notice it vibrates when they are allowed to cross, Snider said.
Jodi Witthaus, a visually impaired member of the Carbondale Coalition for Accessibility, walks with her guard dog, Nika, daily and said she wants to find more of these audio crosswalks on other traffic-crazed streets.
“How me and my dog work is that we have to align ourselves as parallel with traffic as much as possible and the push buttons are way off to the side and would misdirect us, so I never used them,” said Witthaus, an SIU graduate from Centralia. “But now they are constantly beeping, so I know where they are.”
Along with the steady beeping and queues to begin walking, the city also installed Braille signs to help the visually impaired read what street they are facing.
All together, the audio crosswalk costed about $7,000, Snider said.
Although this is a fairly new product, Carbondale officials are already looking to place others in busy intersections, he said.
Witthaus said she often calls the city on requests of her group to suggest improvements and make Carbondale more accessible. She said she hopes she helped influence the decision to install the audio crosswalks.
“There are all these things that used to say that SIU and Carbondale where so accessible and we kind of lost that,” she said. “I would throw out ideas and I told them about these new audio crosswalks for the visually and hearing impaired community, but they would just say it was so expensive. I’m not going to take credit for this improvement, but I do hope that I was a major influence.”