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Monday, May 23, 2011

U of I Research Helping the Visually Impaired

From KLEW TV in Lewiston:

MOSCOW - Research done at the University of Idaho is helping the vision impaired safely cross intersections around the entire country.

Crossing an intersection can be challenging for the visually impaired. UI Professor, Richard Wall led the research and development of what's called the Advanced Accessible Pedestrian System. It provides audible signals that help pedestrians with vision impairments.

"The statistics are really quite bad for pedestrians at intersections," said Wall. "You want to be aware when you're crossing the street, regardless of what the light says. Regardless of what the message says, the pedestrian has to take responsibility for his own safety."

The system is currently in commercial production and is being installed in cities throughout the U.S. One is installed at the corner of Sixth and Deakin in Moscow and is the first pedestrian signal in Moscow that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The arrows on the module allow pedestrians to feel the direction of the intersection and the speakers provide a clear, audible message of when it is and isn't safe to cross."

"Audible sounds have no directionality," said Wall. "Visual, you say OK I'm going to be crossing the street in this direction so I know which cross walk the sign pertains to. But a blind person who hears it doesn't necessarily. It just hears walk and doesn't know which direction the permission was given to."

The system is ready for to be widely distributed. Researchers anticipate installing as many as 90 systems this year.

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