The lay publics first impression is usually that crossing a street without vision is a foolhardy and dramatic undertaking. However, if you watch how sighted people cross streets, you soon discover that most of the time they use their hearing, glancing momentarily to double check (if they look at all). At busier intersections, sighted travelers are quite trusting of the traffic. Once the light says go, they are off with barely a second thought. Blind individuals with appropriate precautions and using good strategies, can easily cross streets using their sense of hearing. The number of competent blind travelers attests to this observation.
Crossing a street without vision requires two sets of skills. First, a blind traveler must have a general strategy for crossing streets. This includes knowledge of street and corner layouts, understanding of traffic patterns, techniques for lining up to make straight crossings, knowing how and what to listen for, etc. Secondly, the blind traveler must appreciate that every intersection has a personality, no two are completely alike. This means that every street crossing involves a study, and it implies that the capable blind traveler knows how to analyze an intersection. The traveler must have a set of criteria for judging safety, and must be skilled at making judgements based on these criteria.
There are three ways to line up to cross a street in a straight line. The first way is simply to continue the line of direction. The student was traveling in a straight line, usually on a sidewalk, when they came to the corner. As long as they do not bounce around and shift their orientation, they should be lined up to cross. A second way to line up involves using the grass line, or when available to use an object for taking a parallel line of direction (a mail box, for example). A third way is to listening to the travel going the same way and parallel to the student. As the car recedes into the distance it projects a straight line (ie. the sound seems to be coming from straight ahead). The best way to cross the street is to use all three methods and make sure they agree.
Curbs can sometimes be used to cross straight. Putting the soles of the feet over the curb perpendicularly will line students up straight in a few instances. Under no circumstances should students use this technique as a matter of routine. Most curbs curve in toward the middle of the intersection and point the student directly into the path of cars going from all four directions. On busier corners, standing with the feet dangling over the curb is foolish sense turning trucks and buses sometimes roll huge rear tires over curbs. I tell students that unless they have studied an intersection and have found it otherwise safe, they are never to use curbs to line up.
A straight line of travel is more likely if the student goes at a quick pace. "Quick" does not mean like a jack rabbit. The student should travel fast enough to feel the camber of the street rise and fall. Once committed to the crossing it is best not to dawdle. Obviously, the longer a student is standing in the street, the greater the odds of being hit by a car.
"I ask my students how a dead dog lying in the road got run over in the first place. Did it saunter into the road or did it dash out in front of a car? I explain to my students (blind children) that most drivers who see a dog crossing a road will slow down to keep from hitting the dog. A dog usually gets run over if it doesn't give the driver time to react, either by serving out of the way or by braking the car. A responsible driver will do everything he or she can to avoid hitting any living thing (except snakes). A dog lazily walking across a road is less likely to be hit than a dog dashing unexpectedly into the street because the driver of a car can anticipate the movements of the sauntering dog, and has time to react. The moral of the story is this: Don't do anything unexpected, and allow drivers time to react."
characteristics of intersections
Using impaired vision
Categories of street crossing (quiet residential streets to major intersections)
It has to be quiet long enough to make it across the street (or the judgement has to be made that passing parallel cars are not going to turn).
It has to be possible (after studying the intersection) for a safe crossing to be made. Curves (bends) in the road, or nearby hills can completely block sounds, making it impossible to judge safely.
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