Audible crosswalks installed to assist visually impaired

Kate Clark, Staff Reporter

The beeping students have been hearing for the past couple weeks at the McAlister crosswalks is the first Accessible Pedestrian Signal to be installed in New Orleans. The signal helps visually impaired people know when it is safe to cross the road.

The beeping is constant. The usual tone directs visually impaired students to the crosswalk, and the tone changes once they press the button and it is safe to walk.

“It’s really just about providing equal access for everybody,” Goldman Office of Disability Services Director Patrick Randolph said. “It’s a heavily trafficked area, both at Freret and at Willow [street intersections]; it’s about student safety, and it’s about accessibility and inclusion.”

The audible crosswalk is the first in the city. The city of New Orleans previously published an 82-page Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan for Public Rights-of-Way, which set a priority for the city to install APS systems, in 2013, but had not yet installed the crosswalks. In conjunction with Facilities Services, Randolph contacted city representatives to install the audible traffic signal, as the traffic light is city-owned property.

Randolph said that in the past, students with severe visual impairments navigated the busy crosswalks by either picking up on the movements around them or relying on their service dogs.

“I don’t think it was overly burdensome to them, but I hope they view this as an improvement,” Randolph said. “I hope that even just the audible sound going off brings some heightened awareness to accessibility issues on campus.”

Michael Guidry, senior associate vice president of Facilities Services, mentioned that there was a notification to Student Affairs regarding the noise level of the beeping. They did turn it down slightly; however, there is a code, not dictated by the ODS, that states that the signal must be within a certain decibel range.

“Not every student has to disclose [that they have a visual impairment],” Randolph said. “I know that there are students here that are dealing with similar issues and probably appreciate the installation of these types of accessible devices.”