by Jeff Thom

As a result of a successful advocacy campaign by the California Council of the Blind and others, the city and county of San Francisco have undertaken a comprehensive program to install accessible pedestrian signals (APS). The city has already installed hundreds of the audible devices at more than 50 intersections, and has signed a binding legal agreement requiring it to install APS at a minimum of 80 intersections and to spend a minimum of $1.6 million on APS over the next two and a half years. The agreement also provides that the city will seek additional funding for more installations. Information about how to learn more about the San Francisco plan is at the end of this article.

The state-of-the art signaling devices in San Francisco are manufactured by Polara and will assist blind and visually impaired pedestrians by emitting a rapid ticking sound in tandem with the familiar "WALK" symbol displayed for sighted pedestrians. Other accessibility features include locator tones and vibrating pushbuttons to help those with visual impairments locate the devices, and the ability to provide helpful audible information such as street names when pedestrians press the pushbutton for one second or longer.

In addition to installing the devices, the city will meet twice a year with blind community representatives to discuss implementation issues, as well as any new technology, legal, or safety developments in connection with APS. The city has also committed to maintaining the new devices, and will work with the CCB and other advocates to adopt a policy for San Francisco residents to request accessible pedestrian signals. The settlement agreement also includes detailed technical specifications for APS and a detailed checklist to enable the city to fairly prioritize requests based on safety factors and other criteria.

The agreement with San Francisco was reached without litigation through a collaborative process known as structured negotiations. In addition to ACB's California affiliate, the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco, and local blind advocate Damien Pickering were involved in the negotiations. Disability rights lawyers Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian represented the blind community.

When the APS program was announced in late June, city officials praised the community advocates and the structured negotiations process. The head of the agency in charge of the city's APS effort, Nathaniel Ford, said he was "very grateful to the advocates for San Francisco's blind community in working to advance this comprehensive agreement, especially Anita Aaron of LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Eugene Lozano Jr., and many members of the California Council of the Blind." San Francisco's city attorney stated, "This agreement reflects far more than our commitment to public safety -- it represents San Francisco's commitment to engage the disability community in a manner that is cooperative rather than confrontational on matters involving accessibility and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. ... [I am] thankful for the positive approach taken by advocates for the blind and visually impaired community." Learn More

ACB members interested in learning more about San Francisco's APS program can find the settlement agreement and all related documents on Linda Dardarian's web site at . Word documents and other formats are also available by contacting Linda's office at 1-800-332-6177 or e-mailing Lainey Feingold at [email protected]. CCB advocates involved in the effort can be reached as follows:

Jeff Thom, President, California Council of the Blind, [email protected]

Gene Lozano, CCB Second Vice President and Chair, Access and Transportation Committee, (916) 278-6988 or [email protected]

Linda Porelle, President, San Francisco Chapter of the California Council of the Blind, (415) 694-7315 or [email protected]

Jessie Lorenz, CCB member and Director of Public Policy and Information at the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, (415) 694-7361 or [email protected]

ACB members and chapters are encouraged to share the San Francisco documents with their local traffic engineers and other state and local officials. Pedestrian safety is a critical issue for the blind community, and APS should be a significant part of all pedestrian safety programs.

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