Getting Across the Street with Visual and Hearing Impairments
Dona Sauerburger, COMS®
NOTE: Before having the student practice traveling in public, cover important points that the instructor should explain to student.
Assessing Risks and Making Decisions
Every crossing involves risk for every pedestrian, including those with normal hearing and vision.
There are many situations where even people with normal vision and hearing are unable to hear or see the traffic well enough to know whether it is clear to cross (click here to see videos of two of these situations).
Process for each crossing:
The role of the O&M specialist is to teach students how to analyze situations to determine those risks so the student can decide whether to cross in that situation.
Some people accept more risk than others and would be willing to accept the risk of crossing in situations that others would consider too dangerous.
Note: those who cannot hear/see well enough to independently analyze situation and determine risks may need hearing/sighted assistance).
1. Analyze situation (determine length of crosswalk / width of street, geometry and traffic control / traffic patterns);
2. Determine how / when to cross (choose strategy for crossing);
3. Determine risks of crossing
Teach students to analyze each intersection for: 4. Reduce risks as much as possible (including changing or revising crossing strategy);
a. risks (what could possibly go wrong?);
b. how the risk can be reduced;
c. how likely the risk is to occur (after reduced)
5. Decide if risks are acceptable:
After determining risk and then reducing it as much as possible (including changing the strategy for crossing), ask the student or guardian if this risk is acceptable to him or her.
6. Consider alternatives if risk is not acceptable
- Before deciding if risk is acceptable, reduce risk as much as possible (including changing street-crossing strategy if appropriate);
- A thing is considered "safe"if its risks are determined to be acceptable
- Each person's acceptance of risk is individual, and may be different from yours.
- Make sure that student is prepared and familiar with alternatives for situations when the risk is not acceptable.
- Discuss pedestrian laws in applicable area
Our responsibility to our students, in addition to teaching them the skills and strategies needed to travel, include making sure they understand:
Ideas / strategies for deaf-blind people to get assistance to cross
- all the choices available to them;
- risks and consequences of the choices (including how to recognize situations where they can't hear / see traffic well enough to know there's a sufficient gap in traffic to cross).
- Stand near curb facing street to be crossed and indicate need for assistance (card; body language; voice, etc.)
- When someone approaches, point to the street you want to cross in order to avoid confusion
- when using a card, it should indicate (see Effective use of cards for soliciting assistance to cross streets):
First: need help to cross street;
A card showing a drawing of a person guiding can reduce language / literacy problems and draw attention
Second: TAP deaf-blind person to offer help (not to indicate it's time to cross!);
Third: deaf-blind / hard of hearing etc.
(These cards are available from Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth: 516-944-8900)
- Go to where there are likely to be people (bus stops, corners, stores, etc.) and solicit assistance to cross
At locations where drivers are likely to stop or drive slowly, hold sign up to ask them to guide you across
Businesses and neighbors:
Call ahead to ask people to watch for you and come guide you across.
TEACHING TO USE HEARING:
AT TRAFFIC SIGNALS
- If student wears hearing aids
- digital hearing aids can equalize sounds so localization might be difficult/impossible
-- work with the audiologist to get hearing aid programs to facilitate localizing and environmental / traffic sounds.
- With analog hearing aids -- before each lesson / travel, student should adjust volume of hearing aid(s) until sources of sound which are directly in front of student sound like they are directly in front.
- To improve localization:
- Encourage head and body movement
- cup the ears to focus on source of sound (turning the head to see where it's loudest)
- scan with body movement (walk in one direction and another to see where the source of sound gets louder or softer)
- using a microphone (for assistive listening device or hearing aids) that has a "focus" mode, scan with the microphone to see which direction the sound is loudest (click here for more).
- Localization with bilateral cochlear implants
- Whenever teaching use of traffic sounds, first have the student experience the sound correctly, as in the examples below:
To teach localizing sound of traffic surge / vehicles:
Go to an intersection with a 4 way stop sign, listen to surge of individual vehicles in each of 4 positions as instructor explains where the vehicles are, then have student guess from where the vehicles are surging.
To teach alignment with traffic sounds:
If student cannot use traffic sounds or other cues to align
- Find a place that has no directional clues (no sun, no slopes or cracks in the sidewalk, no continuous source of noise, etc.)
- Face student straightand have him listen to traffic to learn what straight sounds like;
- Face student slightly crookedand have him listen to traffic and notice the difference from what straight sounds like
(if he can't hear the difference, face more crooked until the difference is heard, then face less crooked and try to hear the difference);
- Once the student can hear the difference in the traffic sound between straight and crooked alignment, disorient him and then have him align himself by finding a position that sounds like it did when he was straight.
memorize alignment at one landmark on the sidewalk, noting how the feet or cane feel at the curb when aligned.
Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) are GREAT for making signal information accessible!
AT NO TRAFFIC CONTROL (need to detect gaps in approaching traffic):
Visual scanning for danger
- MUTCD (Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices) specifies vibrotactile output at APS, and proposed regulations will require it.
- Discuss risks of turning cars with student: make sure student understands risks, and how to reduce risks.
- Click here to see photos of APS being used by a deaf-blind man.
Three sources of danger:
Can't see / hear enough to scan the traffic?
1. left turners;
Order and location for scanning:
2. right turners;
3. right turn on red (RTOR)
Clockwise crossing -- look
first: left for RTOR (before crossing);
Counter clockwise crossing -- look
then back right for left turners (at center);
then forward for right turners.
first left for right turners (before crossing);
then forward left for left turners (while starting);
then check for RTOR just before entering last
Brainstorm ways of reducing risks for each source of cars, including timing of crossing:
With risks reduced as much as possible, make decision about whether risk of crossing is acceptable and if not, consider alternatives to crossing.
- Right turners: hold cane visible; flagcars with cane (move it side to side on the street surface), step forward to start crossing but be ready to return if cars don't stop; cross early in phase so vehicles are slower;
- Right-Turn-On-Red: drivers are looking to left; if crossing from the driver's right, be aware / ready to hit car with cane if the vehicle surges forward when you are in its path;
- Left turners: cross with platoon of traffic between you and left turners (early in phase)
Students must determine whether they can hear or see traffic well enough to know if there is a sufficient gap to cross (the Procedure to Develop the Judgment of the Detection of Traffic can teach them to recognize situations where they can not see/hear traffic well enough).
In those situations, they
Visual detection of vehicles:Use of Vibrotactile Device to Detect Vehicles
The student with functional vision should first learn to judge when there is a crossable gap in only one direction at a time, then learn to glance or scan to determine if there are crossable gaps in both directions.
WATCHING APPROACHING TRAFFIC to judge gaps -- teach student to judge when cars are slow or far enough to cross
SCANNING -- people with restricted visual fields will need to learn how to scan street (one direction at a time) without missing potential approaching vehicles
GLANCING: once the student can scan or judge gaps well in one direction, she should learn to watch for a gap in traffic from both directions
- determine where and in what order to scan before and during crossing -- last scan is toward traffic coming in nearest lane, then attend to other direction
- Pedestrians shouldn't hold the glance too long BUT SOME PEOPLE MUST HOLD IT (such as people with macular degeneration, who need to see movement to detect vehicles) (see Scanning for Cars).
- If visual field is severely restricted, they must scan slowly teach them how slowly to scan (see Scanning for Cars)
Do "Deaf-Blind Pedestrians" Street Signs Work?
We experimented to find out if a traffic sign saying "DEAF-BLIND PEDESTRIANS" makes it more likely that drivers will yield.
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