April 17, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
35°F

Voice guides pedestrians

By CASSANDRA SHOFAR

Staff Writer

MEDINA — If you stand at a street corner and hear a voice say it’s OK to cross, don’t worry, you’re not delusional. It’s just one of the city’s new audible traffic signals.

Four of these signals for sight-impaired and blind individuals recently were installed in the city: at North Court and West Liberty streets, East Washington Street and South Broadway, North Court and Northland Drive, and North Court and Reagan Parkway, City Engineer Patrick Patton said.

They were incorporated as part of the citywide signalization upgrade, Patton said, adding the funding for them — $29,700 — was covered by the city’s Community Development Block Grant, federal money for projects in the city that meet certain criteria.

Patton said to locate the push button for the signal, there’s a continual beeping sound emitting from the push button.

“That’s so sight-impaired people can find the button and once they push it, the intersection will go into its signalization (process) and when it’s time to walk, there’s a voice that says, ‘cross Court Street now’ and when it’s not OK, the voice stops,” Patton said.

A pedestrian actuates an audible crosswalk signal Monday at the corner of North Court and West Liberty streets on Public Square in Medina. The city installed four signals that tell pedestrians, including sight-impaired and blind individuals, when to cross the roadway. (Andrew Dolph | Staff Photographer)


A local group called Friends N Focus, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind of Ohio, was instrumental in getting these signals installed, Patton said, adding they petitioned the city to use some of those grant funds toward the audible signals.

Mayor Jane Leaver said city council votes on what projects the grant money will be used for and conducts several public hearings as well.

“We have had numerous requests for those (signals),” she said. “We’ve received several calls and compliments saying thank you for finally getting this project done.”

She added, however, the signals may take a bit of getting used to.

“If you’re not used to it, it will scare you,” she said with a chuckle.

One of the group’s members, Don Kalman, of Chatham Township, who is sight-impaired and a volunteer with the Litchfield Fire Department, said Friends N Focus lobbied the city to have the signals installed in early 2005.

“We support people with vision loss, whether visually impaired or blind,” Kalman said of his group.

He added: “And not only (are the signals) good for people with vision problems, but they’re also good for kids. You have to give a lot of credit to the city. The city of Medina is progressive.”

Kalman said Dan Bennett, who also was a member of Friends N Focus, started the whole process of contacting the city about the signals. However, he passed away about 2½ years ago, Kalman said, adding he wished he could’ve seen them up and running now.

“He started communicating with the city on this,” Kalman said. “He worked very hard. I think (the signals) are a wonderful thing.”

Shofar may be reached at 330-721-4044 or cshofar@ohio.net.