The Wells Signal
Sophia Leduck, M.A., C.O.M.S.
The Wells Signal is a specific, yet simple hand signal developed abroad whilst working a 2-year contract as an O&M Specialist in New Zealand. I quickly became aware, that drivers are not pedestrian-friendly like they are here in the United States and they do not have any rules similar to our white cane law.
Do drivers know exactly what it means? Not necessarily, as long as it gets their attention . . . and in their bewilderment, they slow down, yield, or stop for a pedestrian . . . that's the point!
The long white cane gives attention to lower body while the Wells signal provides attention to upper body and is more inline with the driver's eye level. It is simple and easy to do . . . a built-in type of technique . . . as long as you are equipped with an arm!
The Wells Signal is already associated with authority/familiarity with regards to drivers. Think about it. . .police officers are persons with authority and use hand signals to direct traffic. Crossing guards often use hand signals along with their stop signs. Basically, the message to the driver is . . . "slow down, yield, stop".
This session will introduce and provide outside demonstrations of the Wells Signal for increasing pedestrian visibility, safety and driver cooperation during street crossings.
Participants in the October 1st Monday workshop will develop and execute a pilot test of the effectiveness of the Wells Signal at nearby intersection/s, and debrief results. The outdoor demonstration will include use of one (or all) of the following: long white cane, ID cane, and support cane.
Sequence of Events/Monday's Workshop
1. How the Wells Signal originated
How to properly exhibit the Wells Signal
2. Indoor demonstration of Wells Signal with classroom participating
3. Importance of a pilot test: how effective is the Wells Signal?
4. Distribute materials (canes, clipboards, stopwatches, etc.) for pilot test and assign participants
5. Proceed to intersection/s for brief pilot test (testing the effectiveness of Wells Signal)
6. Return to classroom and discuss results of pilot test
7. Discuss any additional points about the Wells Signal
When to begin the Wells Signal
- Flatten your non-cane hand, making sure fingers and thumb do not have any spaces between them (like a karate chop); it should be quite firm
- Take the same non-cane hand and bring the palm up against your ear so that it completely covers your ear
- Extend your forearm away from your body without moving your upper arm (it stays stationary)
- Continue bending at elbow until it is slightly greater than a 90-degree angle
- The palm of your hand should be at the same level of your face
When to end the Wells Signal
- General rule of thumb: simultaneously extend hand into correct position when pedestrian begins the crossing by removing foot from curb and into the street (it's much easier to transition and not think about this way)
- Advanced training level. . .based on circumstances (type of street crossing and visual impairment of pedestrian), it may be appropriate to begin the Wells Signal a bit earlier
- Keep hand in the erect position until completely out of the street (when the leading foot steps up onto the opposing curb); some students like to end it sooner but it's best when maintained during the entire crossing
- Any type of crossing busy, moderate or quiet (one never really knows what is going to show up out of the blue)
- Suggested Areas: zebra crossings, merge right turn lanes, parking lots, roundabouts, mid-block zebra crossings, signal-light crossings, during a counter-clockwise crossing, one ways, country roads, curvy roads, etc.
- Simultaneously used with Identification Cane, Long White Cane, or Support Cane and with any type of cane technique
Modifications (as seen appropriate)
- Pedestrian should already exhibit good street crossing skills
- Pedestrian must understand this is not a replacement for using proper street crossing techniques but instead, an enhancement. . .very important to understand this so they don't use sloppy street crossing skills or assume drivers will automatically stop
- Really work student to make sure they display correct form; using a properly exhibited Wells Signal will convey confidence, seriousness, and increased visibility to drivers
Observations of drivers while pedestrian is using the Wells Signal
- Congenital folks may have trouble holding arm correctly but do the best you can, anything that brings attention to the upper body will help increase visibility; it should not interfere with veering and may even help to assist with controlling veering as long as hand is pointed in the direction of intended travel
- Some folks may choose to have their Wells Signal hand occupied with a bag; first suggest using a backpack or long shoulder bag that allows for proper use of the Well Signal; if they insist on carrying a bag that interferes with the technique, it can still be done albeit with awkwardness
Observations of students that have been taught the Wells Signal
- Driver's yielding/stopping distance from pedestrian is considerably increased than with the cane alone
- Driver waits until pedestrian is completely finished crossing and out of street (and sometimes longer!)
- Bewildered Driver does not necessarily know what Wells Signal means, but it still gets their attention which means pedestrian has an increased chance of crossing safely
- Find it to be empowering and helps to claim personal space
- Will learn and apply technique without any hesitation (about 50% of students)
- Some report it would be too embarrassing and say "I will feel like a "Noggin Head"; the way to deal with this is to say, "it only will last about 30 seconds and may increase your ability to cross safely so let's give it a go" (after trying it, they realize its value)