American Council of the Blind Releases Updated Pedestrian Safety Handbook

by Melanie Brunson

I am very pleased to report to you that on October 14, in conjunction with the observance of White Cane Safety Day, an annual nationwide event, ACB released an updated edition of its Pedestrian Safety Handbook, a publication which informs people who are blind and visually impaired, their families, and others about contemporary approaches to assuring safe paths of travel for blind pedestrians and effective ways to advocate for accommodations like accessible pedestrian signals, tactile warnings at the edges of curb ramps, and mechanisms for routing travelers safely through problematic intersections.

ACB published its first Pedestrian Safety Handbook in 1999. Since then, there have been several revisions and updates which have informed readers, orientation and mobility specialists, traffic engineers and others about changes in the regulations which implement the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as the guidelines which traffic engineers rely upon to design or renovate roadways, intersections, traffic circles and other paths of travel that motor vehicles and pedestrians share.

In a press release announcing the release of this publication, ACB president Mitch Pomerantz pointed out, "The last time we updated our Pedestrian Safety Handbook, quiet cars were still driving through the imaginations of vehicle designers. Now, they are just one more reality that can compromise the safety of a blind person stepping off a curb in front of a car that he or she cannot hear coming. Our role as advocates becomes more complex in ways we might never have even imagined. We are pleased that our Pedestrian Safety Handbook is a living document that will be able to keep up with the changes that govern all our lives and safety."

The document, which is located at, will inform people who are blind and visually impaired everywhere, as well as the orientation and mobility field, and the traffic engineers who need to take our safety into consideration as they maximize traffic flow and contemplate new efficiencies and equipment.

The updated handbook includes specific regulations which people who are blind can call upon to advocate for changes at intersections and along their paths of travel that will provide audible and tactile information about situations which sighted pedestrians can evaluate visually, such as when a traffic light changes color, a walk sign is illuminated, or where turning arrows might cause traffic to speed in front of an otherwise unsuspecting blind or visually impaired pedestrian.

"The Federal Highway Administration has made some significant regulatory changes since we last published a Pedestrian Safety Handbook," said Debbie Grubb, chairperson of ACB's Environmental Access Committee. "It is important for us to have the most up-to-date information about regulations when we approach our communities to advocate for the changes that can keep us safe. This handbook, which is being published online, will provide the most current information available anywhere."

In addition to chapters that deal with specific pedestrian safety issues and current regulations, there are case studies that describe how blind and visually impaired people have successfully advocated for change and safety across the country, and templates for writing letters and citing regulations that can work. Once again, if you'd like to read the Pedestrian Safety Handbook, it is currently available online only. It can be found at Please help us spread the word about this very informative and dynamic resource.