SAN ANTONIO – Audible pedestrian signals can be vital for the blind and visually impaired to safely cross roadways. Roland Gomez says he was satisfied with the ones installed at the intersection of West Commerce Street and North San Felipe Avenue until about two months ago.
“If they’re working properly, and the way they should be, and the city does its job the way they should, it’s very convenient,” Gomez said.
But Gomez said the city switched out the signals for new ones. For him, the supposed upgrade became a downgrade. He found the volume was significantly lowered compared to the previous signals and others at intersections nearby.
“It cut off my world completely,” he said. “I can only get up to the corner and that’s as far as I can.”
He often had to ask people to help him cross the street, just like he did five years ago before the signals were installed after he lobbied city officials and staff.
“Sometimes, I got to stand here and wait for about 10-15 minutes, wait for somebody to walk by and then I bother them to see if they can help me cross the street,” Gomez told KSAT 12 in 2016.
Gomez said one of the buttons on the south side of the intersection is on the wrong side of the crosswalk and signal pole, potentially creating a dangerous situation when someone attempts to cross.
According to the Public Works Department, crews began replacing the signals two months ago in order to improve safety and ensure the ramps and sidewalks comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A technician also went to the site Thursday “to increase the sound volume to make sure it would be sufficiently heard when a pedestrian pushes a button for the traffic signal. The volume is also designed to automatically increase when it detects higher levels of traffic noise for the safety of any pedestrians at the crossing,” a spokesperson for the department said.
The city’s Disability Access Office also sent a compliance officer to the intersection Tuesday and they are working with traffic control to determine whether the button placement needs to be changed.
Overall, other cities have had to catch up with San Antonio when it comes to audible pedestrian signals. It had at least 100 a few years ago compared to a few dozen in cities like Houston and Austin. Federal grants helped pay for the installation of several more of them earlier this year.
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