KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Kansas City Kansas Community College is celebrating White Cane Safety Day Oct. 15 with a demonstration of its new crosswalk signal.
White Cane Safety Day is a national observance, celebrated on Oct. 15 of each year. The goal of the day is to celebrate the achievements of those who have visual impairments as well as the symbol of blindness, the white cane. President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first to sign a proclamation for White Cane Safety Day, which is also referred to as Blind Americans Equality Day.
This year, staff from the Kansas State School for the Blind, 1100 State Ave. in Kansas City, Kan. will be visiting KCKCC to demonstrate the new and improved intersection on the KCKCC campus, crossing Campus Blvd. from the main building to student housing.
Cheryl Covell-Seaton, career education and mobility specialist at the Kansas State School for the Blind, said the crosswalk started with a simple email to Michael Burns, director of the Academic Resource Center at KCKCC, explaining the need for an accessible pedestrian signal at the crosswalk.
“Without it, it was not really safe for anyone, sketchy at best for someone with a visual impairment and impossible for someone who is both blind and hearing impaired,” she said.
The intersection has been retrofitted with Accessible Pedestrian Signals, channelized walkways and detectable warning strips, which provide information for individuals with visual impairments. The signals are activated by a cross walk button that continuously “chirps,” so blind or visually impaired students can find it to activate the stop lights.
The APS system also provides information verbally, telling students when it is safe to cross as well as tactilely via vibrations for individuals who have dual sensory impairments-auditory and visual loss. The light at the cross walk turns solid red to stop cars, and then after a timed interval, flashes red to allow cars to pass if the intersection remains clear.
After a time, the signal will go dark, allowing for vehicles to pass freely. The sidewalk has also been straightened extending it to the south side of the Fine Arts building and automated door openers have been installed at those doors.
The demonstration will take place at 4 p.m. Oct. 15 on the KCKCC campus. Blindfolds and white canes will be provided for those who would like to experience using the new APS signals without vision.
“This made crossing very difficult at busy times of the day. This strategy was also not completely full-proof when you consider how quiet hybrid vehicles are, background noise (such as construction, wind), etc.,” she said. “As you can understand, someone who cannot see or hear the vehicles would have no way to make a safe crossing without having a way to stop traffic.”
Previously, there was no formal traffic control at the crosswalk. Students and staff crossing the heavily travelled Campus Blvd. had to rely on drivers to stop on their own. Covell-Seaton said they would teach their blind students to only cross when it was completely silent (indicating that there is no traffic coming from either direction).
“The APS that was installed is state-of-the-art,” Covell-Seaton said. “It has made traveling between student housing and main campus safer for all students.”
For more information, contact Craig Phillips, certified orientation and mobility specialist and teacher of the blind and visually impaired at the Kansas State School for the Blind, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 913-305-3044.