[nfbwatlk] FW: [Wcb-l] FW: Something of interest concerning traffic intersectionsand hybrid cars.

Alco Canfield amcanfield at comcast.net
Wed Apr 1 00:15:31 UTC 2009



From: wcb-l-bounces at wcbinfo.org [mailto:wcb-l-bounces at wcbinfo.org] On Behalf
Of Vivian Conger
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 4:03 PM
To: wcb-l at wcbinfo.org
Subject: [Wcb-l] FW: Something of interest concerning traffic
intersectionsand hybrid cars.


WMU sets its sights on easing challenges for blind pedestrians

One of the nation's premier university programs in blindness and low vision
studies is putting its resources behind an effort to help pedestrians with
visual impairments navigate increasingly complex traffic patterns.

WMU's College of Health and Human Services is home to the nation's oldest
and largest university-based personnel preparation program focused on
blindness and low vision rehabilitation. One of only about 15 programs in
this area nationwide, WMU's Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies

*	orientation and mobility specialists, who teach individuals with
blindness and low vision the skills needed for safe travel; 

*	vision rehabilitation therapists, who provide instruction to
children and adults in activities such as Braille and adaptive
communication, daily living skills, and social and leisure activities; 

*	teachers of vision impaired children, who help to meet the academic
needs of school-aged children; and 

*	rehabilitation counselors, who assist children and working-age
adults with vocational issues. 

Continuing the University's long tradition of innovation and research
productivity, researchers in the department have been working since 2000
with the largest single research grant ever awarded in the field of
orientation and mobility. The $4.2 million grant was awarded by the National
Institutes of Health and its National Eye Institute for work aimed at
improving the access to complex traffic intersections by adults and children
with low vision or blindness.

Work on the initial effort was guided by Dr. Richard Long. The funding
supported a set of about 30 research projects in support of the overall
effort. Long, professor of blindness and low vision studies and associate
dean in the College of Health and Human Services, had three WMU
co-investigators on the grant from WMU: Dr. David Guth, professor, and Dr.
Robert Wall-Emerson, associate professor, in the Department of Blindness and
Low Vision Studies, and Dr. John Gesink, professor and chair of the
Department of Electrical and Computing Engineering. With extensions, the
initial five-year award ended in May 2007.

In June 2008, the investigators received word that their competitive renewal
application was approved. This renewal will provide an additional $4.9
million in funding on the topic of access to complex intersections between
2008 and 2012. In total, WMU has been awarded $9.9 million in research
dollars to investigate this topic.

Nature of the Research

The research is multidisciplinary in nature, involving traffic engineers,
psychologists, and orientation and mobility specialists. Collaborating with
WMU are Boston College, University of North Carolina, Vanderbilt University
and the Maryland School for the Blind. Important to note is the fact that
Boston College, UNC and Vanderbilt are premier research institutions with
extensive programs of heavily funded, highly complex research.

Each of the four partner institutions investigates specific areas related to
intersection access. At WMU, one emphasis is on how people with low vision
and blindness cross streets at roundabout intersections. Proven to be safe
and to reduce by as much as 60 percent the number of serious traffic
accidents as they improve the traffic flow pattern, roundabouts offer a
unique challenge to blind and low- vision pedestrians seeking to access the

Under federal law, the American with Disabilities Act mandates that people
with disabilities have equal access to public spaces, including the street
environment. Long and his cohorts are studying how to identify which
roundabouts are likely to be problematic, and investigating how access might
be facilitated by the use of low- and high tech-solutions, such as flashing
beacons and video-based systems to detect vehicles.

Another potential challenge for pedestrians with low vision and blindness,
as well as sighted pedestrians, is the increasingly popular hybrid cars.
Environmental and energy groups are urging the Big Three automakers and the
general public to invest in hybrids. But with their influx into the
mainstream, the challenge for blind and low-vision people is to hear these
quiet cars as they approach crosswalks. 

Unlike those with typical vision, some blind and low-vision pedestrians
cannot visually preview the roadways to see the traffic pattern. They rely
on sound cues to determine when to cross the street. Researchers at WMU are
working to study how hybrids with their quiet engines impact traffic
detection for people with low vision and blindness, and they ultimately will
investigate access solutions that will make detection of hybrid vehicles

For more information, contact Dr. Richard Long at richard.long at wmich.edu.




Vivian and Blaze

Guide Dogs of America, Class 338

blazie.girl at gmail.com


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